Dec 16, 2014

Review: VeggieTales: It's a Meaningful Life (2010)

I'm feeling good right now because I'm one movie closer to being done with VeggieTales forever. I know that there's a lot more to go though but being finished with the Christmas themed entries would be a great Christmas present for myself. Of course, the real concern here is Big Idea continuing to make new films which does seem to be the case. They seem to be settled on making three films a year which is awful, awful news for me. It's sure to make lots of Veggie fans very pleased though.

Made in 2010, It's a Meaningful Life makes it pretty clear which movie it's inspired by. It's a shame that it's been pumped so full of references to God and being made special by Him. Talk about ruining a good story. All the same, seeing all these Christmas-themed VeggieTales movies has been great for me personally to get a good cross-section of the series as a whole.


Genre: animation, family
Directed by: Brian Roberts
Produced by: Jeff Bell, Dan Krech, Mike Nawrocki, etc.
Written by: Mark Steele
Music by: Kurt Heinecke, Phil Vischer
Running time: 48 minutes
Production company: Big Idea
Distributed by: Anderson Digital
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer, Lilly Carter



Stewart Green (voice: Mike Nawrocki) is a star football player on his school team. He dreams of leaving his small town and following his football skills to stardom. On a play that goes wrong, Stewart crashes into his teammate Morty Bumble (voice: Phil Vischer) who then accidentally catches the ball and scores the winning touchdown. Unfortunately, Morty is the one who becomes famous while Stewart has to settle for working in his father's (voice: Phil Vischer) toy train factory. 


Unlike the previous VeggieTales Christmas entries, It's a Meaningful Life follows the regular VT format of Bob (voice: Phil Vischer) and Larry (voice: Mike Nawrocki) doing their usual counter top address to the viewer. They're predictably annoying and none of the jokes they crack are worth even a smirk. Mark Steele also wrote Veggietales: Saint Nicholas - A Story of Joyful Giving! but there's something about It's a Meaningful Life that tweaks my annoyed tendon even more.

I believe the reason for that is Mark Steele primarily targeting children with It's a Meaningful Life. It's not an exaggeration when I say that there's absolutely nothing here that will appeal to teenagers or adults. There's lots of cutesy characters with cutesy dialogue and little voices that kids might like, but leaves people like me pulling their hair out. Interestingly enough, I believe that  IaML has the most references to God that I've seen in a VeggieTales yet. Whether that's good or bad is all subjective, but I personally see it as forceful and unnecessary to a story like this. 

While the lessons in here are all good ones, there's no escaping that this movie is an overly-preachy mess. Imagine taking the amazing story of It's a Wonderful Life and filling that with messages about God's plan? Maybe this is acceptable for families who value raising their children to be good Christians, but I see all of this falling on deaf ears anyway. How about actually watching It's a Wonderful Life or an animated movie with animation that doesn't look like it's from the stone age instead?

It's 2010 and despite efforts to improve on animation, everything still looks really bad. I'd say that things in general look sort of OK when there isn't too much going on or too many characters in the frame. As soon as there's any kind of action though, it's hard to watch. What's strange too is that the animation progressively gets worse as the movie goes on. It honestly looked like it was getting choppier and choppier which is a huge problem.

The story of It's a Meaningful Life is a mash up of It's a Wonderful Life, The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. It's mostly IaWL, but hints of the two other movies are there. It's never particularly clever how these story elements are brought together and I'd recommend parents showing their kids the real versions of these movies instead. Kids deserve more than ripoffs of better movies don't they?

I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but the same problems that have existed since the start of VT still plague It's a Meaningful Life. Voice acting is a humungous weakness with Phil Vischer doing all the heavy lifting and the songs are still a cesspool of badness. It's nice that there isn't a Silly Songs with Larry segment, but the replacement here isn't much better.

VeggieTales: It's a Meaningful Life is an example of how Big Idea has remained content to languish in its own ineptitude. It's unbelievable how the same problems haven't been fixed and I personally think it was a mistake to pretty much cut the bone that used to be thrown to adults. This is a kids-only affair and it would be a mistake to let them watch it. They don't need videos to teach them how to be good people and they don't deserve to develop poor musical tastes either. 



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