May 7, 2015

Review: Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed (1999)

Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed is the second Larry-Boy entry in VeggieTales, following in the footsteps of Larry-Boy! And the Fib from Outer Space! which came out two years earlier. Trust me when I say that Fib from Outer Space! was one of the better VT videos I've seen so far, even if it only managed to get a 4 out of me. At this point, I've come to the conclusion that anything in the area of 4 is pretty solid for anything VeggieTales. I guess you could say that I had high expectations for Rumor Weed.

Around the time when Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed was being produced, Big Idea Productions was mulling the idea of doing a feature length film. That idea eventually came to be in 2002 when Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie was released. Going from several 30 minute, poorly animated direct-to-video films a year to an animated feature length cinematic release is no small task though. Work needed to be done to get ready. There's actually an example of Big Idea trying to experiment with better animation in Rumor Weed and that's definitely a good sign.

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At a Glance


Genre: animation, short, family
Directed by: Phil Vischer
Produced by: Phil Vischer
Written by: Phil Vischer
Music by: Kurt Heinecke, Phil Vischer
Running time: 35 minutes
Production company: Big Idea Entertainment
Distributed by: Word Entertainment, Lyrick Studios, Warner Home Video, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer, G. Bock, Lisa Vischer, Kristin Blegen, Dan Anderson, Lesley Benodin, Mike Sage, Jim Poole, John Wahba, Steve Leeper, Henry Caparoso, Justin Eddy, Steve Eddy, Gretchen Heinecke, Ariel Mock, Hailey Mock, Shelby Vischer

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Synopsis


After stopping a thief from getting away with someone's milk money, Larry-Boy (voice: Mike Nawrocki) accidentally knocks over a potted plant from a rooftop. The plant lands on a telephone wire while the telephone itself is being used to spread a rumor. The mix of electricity and rumors has a strange effect on the plant as it tumbles down into the sewers. Before long, the plant has transformed into a seemingly invincible Rumor Weed (voice: G. Bock) with the ability to rapidly spread. The more rumors are spread throughout Bumblyberg, the stronger it'll get.


Review


Disappointingly, Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed really isn't that different from Larry-Boy! And the Fib from Outer Space! I mean, one has a villain that grows bigger from telling lies and the other villain gets bigger from spreading rumors. Phil Vischer might think he gets a pass for spoofing Batman like he is, but he still could've at least come up with a more original storyline than this. Also, does Larry-Boy's butler HAVE to be called Alfred (voice: Phil Vischer) anyway? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that he's supposed to be a take on Batman's Alfred.

All the same, Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed is refreshing in the sense that there's no countertop address and there aren't any Silly Songs either thankfully. There's still the Larry-Boy theme however that while annoying, it's one of the better produced pieces of music out of Big Idea. That's maybe not saying very much though. There's only one other song in Rumor Weed called "The Rumor Weed Song" and it's pretty bad. That makes the lack of songs a definite blessing here.

Now in terms of how the general theme of Rumor Weed is dealt with, Phil Vischer boils things down to an extremely simplistic explanation. A rumor = bad words which obviously is bad. The lesson here is that instead of spreading bad words, we should be spreading good words. It's a valuable lesson for sure, but I feel like Vischer is a little too insistent on holding the viewers' hands. I get that VeggieTales is for kids, but give them a bit of credit at least. They don't need things to be as spelled out as they are in Rumor Weed, or at least I don't think so.

The only good things I've said so far about LarryBoy and the Rumor Weed have been backhanded compliments, but (surprise!) I got a real one here. There is an honest to God decently animated sequence in Rumor Weed when Larry-Boy meets the giant Rumor Weed in the sewers, which I mentioned earlier. I'm talking shadows and everything. It's no Pixar-produced eye candy or anything like that, but compared to the general awfulness of VeggieTales animation, it's a miracle. Apparently this was a test for Big Idea's new animation software and man is it a major step forward.


Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed is predictably unfunny, hard to look at and hard to listen to. The story is almost a carbon copy of Larry-Boy! And the Fib from Outer Space! and it also happens to feature the most annoying character of them all, Larry the Cucumber. This second Larry-Boy sequel still manages to be one of the better VeggieTales videos for the reason that it only has one poorly written song as opposed to multiple poorly written songs. That one scene showcasing the improved animation capabilities of Big Idea is also worthy of some praise.

Rating


4/10