Jan 12, 2015

Review: VeggieTales: Rack, Shack & Benny (1995)

I pride myself on being able to soldier through any movie series, no matter how long or how bad it may be. At times these can be good experiences such as watching the whole James Bond series which is tons of fun which is why I'm about to finish my second watch-through pretty soon. Even a series like Friday the 13th can be fun. There's seriously no such joy in watching VeggieTales though. Pretty much every minute is an exercise in trying not to reach for the remote and stopping the movie.

I'm back to watching the beginnings of VeggieTales after fast forwarding a bit and watching some of Big Idea's later Christmas-themed entries. I have to admit that this was a rude awakening. It's hard going back to the archaic animation of early VT and there's no doubt that the writing in general has improved in later films. Not by leaps and bounds or anything, but enough to make everything easier to choke down.


Genre: animation, short, musical
Directed by: Phil Vischer
Produced by: Phil Vischer
Written by: Phil Vischer
Music by: Phil Vischer, Kurt Heinecke, Mike Nawrocki
Running time: 34 minutes
Production company: Big Idea Entertainment
Distributed by: Lyrick Studios, Word Entertainment, Warner Home Video
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Lisa Vischer, Kristin Blegen, Dan Anderson, G. Bock



Things are going very smoothly at the Nezzer Chocolate Factory after having sold two million chocolate bunnies. Owner Nebby K. Nezzer (voice: Phil Vischer) decides to reward his workers by allowing them to eat all the chocolate bunnies they want. The workers go crazy eating as much chocolate as they can, but Meshach (voice: Lisa Vicher) believes it's wrong to eat so much since it isn't good for you. Only Shadrach (voice: Phil Vischer) and Abednego (voice: Mike Nawrocki) stand with him which nets all three a promotion for not getting sick and taking the rest of the day off. Their beliefs are tested the next day however when Mr. Nezzer unveils plans for a giant bunny that the workers all must worship.


Without a doubt, VeggieTales: Rack, Shack & Benny has one of the worst stories I've ever encountered in a VT movie. It's a re-telling of the biblical story Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the Book of Daniel and the lesson that Phil Vischer is trying to get across here is dealing with peer pressure and standing up for what you believe in.

He first tries to work that in with the whole chocolate eating employees scene. Meshach's parents taught him that it's bad to eat too much chocolate since it's bad for your health. Shadrach and Abednego don't really care at first though because no one's parents are there and everyone else is stuffing their gobs anyway, so why should they stop?

Meshach somehow convinces both of them by singing a song that his mom used to sing him about how all he has to do is think of her and she'll be with him. They tearfully agree to not eat anymore chocolate which nets them the promotion. Ah, but then Mr. Nezzer unveils plans for a giant bunny idol which must be worshiped with "The Bunny Song." The song has lyrics about loving the bunny more than God, healthy food, school, you name it. This runs counter to the trio's beliefs and they refuse to sing the song. Know what happens to non-singers? They get thrown into the furnace.

You can't help but wonder if this is all for real. Giant bunny idols? The Bunny Song? Is this seriously the best way Phil Vischer could've addressed peer pressure? The more the story went on the more I couldn't believe what I was watching and it even gets worse. (Spoilers) When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to sing, they get thrown into the furnace. However they're miraculously saved. By who? By God of course. It's a ridiculous scene that ends with a crying Mr. Nezzer asking for forgiveness because he was wrong about the whole bunny thing. (End Spoilers) Talk about preachy.

The animation unsurprisingly hasn't changed and it looks awful. It also doesn't help that the backgrounds are flat, blank and feature a lot of empty space. The score also sounds very low budget and the songs themselves are horrible as expected. It's hard to believe that someone took the time and effort to write down the lyrics because they sound shoddily improvised on the spot. Sorry if it's harsh but they're clearly the work of non-musically inclined individuals which is fine. Not everyone can be good at everything and I just wish that Phil Vischer and his team could've found someone to take on songwriting duties.

There's no humour to be found in VeggieTales: Rack, Shack & Benny, only despair. The story boggles the mind with its stupidity and its silliness. I'd easily rather listen to Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On twenty times in a row rather than listen to any song in this film ever again. Make it fifty. All the same, this is Big Idea's first time releasing more than one film in a year and perhaps quality control was a bit more difficult to manage this time around. That's the only thing I can think of.



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