Movie Review: “Jonah: A Veggie Tales Move” (Nov-Dec 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by Natalie Noah-Wilson
November – December, 2002

Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales and founder of Big Idea! Productions, tells a whale of a story in the recent theater movie release, Jonah: a Veggie Tales movie.

What begins as a happy drive to a concert takes the Veggie Tales characters to a land and time far away, with ships, storms, and a very large fish. They learn a key lesson about God as well

Bob the Tomato and Dad Asparagus are taking the kids to the Twippo concert. During the drive, a few mishaps occur which lead Bob to blame Dad, and Junior Asparagus to blame Laura Carrot.

Throw in a porcupine, clothesline, and a broken steering wheel, and the characters arrive at a seafood shack where the characters meet the “Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.” The pirates listen to the ranting of Tom and Junior as each blames his friend for all the night’s misfortunes and are reminded of Jonah’s lack of compassion for the people of Nineveh.

With Archibald Asparagus as Jonah, the would-be concert goers are transported to Joppa where Jonah hires the ship (manned, of course, by the Pirates) which will take him to Tarshish in an effort to dodge his call to preach to the people of Nineveh. God, however, has other plans for the people of Nineveh, and he wants to use Jonah for that plan

All seems well on the ship and Jonah falls asleep. A terrible storm wakes him and a Pirate is yelling at him to pray to his God to SAVE THEM! Lots are cast by a game of Go Fish, and Jonah accepts his “fate” and is cast into the ocean. Jonah goes through a three-night slumber party in a multi-ton tent called “the belly of the fish.” Here he is left to consider his heart and his deeds.

Jonah: The MovieWhat happens next was the highlight of the movie for me. A wondrous chorus of asparagus and cucumber angels sing to Jonah that God is a God of second chances. Not only is this song a toe-tapper, but the imagery is captivating. Phil Vischer brings images of the New Testament cross to an Old Testament story and ties them together with the theme of second chances or mercy of God

Next, the fish spits Jonah onto the beach. He goes to Nineveh where he tells the people to stop slapping each other with fishes and shape up or ship out. The people are sorry and Jonah leaves them. He travels to a mountain where he waits for God to zap the Ninevites. He waits and waits and waits until he realizes that God does not intend to zap the fish-slapping Ninevites. Jonah is angry at God for having compassion on them and wishes he could just die.

Return to Tom, Dad, Junior, and Laura who are hanging on every word of the “Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.” They are disappointed (as was I) that the story of Jonah ended so abruptly without any real resolution. But then, so does the text of Jonah. As one character aptly states, “He (Jonah) just didn’t get it.”

Although I went to this movie primarily for my children, I was the one who gleaned a spiritual truth from it. This movie is not only for kids but for adults. In fact, if you really want to get the full spiritual impact, you may want to go without kids!

At the same time, however, I found a few elements of the movie hard to swallow. Even though the scene about angels ministering to Jonah while he is in the fish had a great impact on me, the book of Jonah describes no such vision. There is also some trouble once Jonah gets to Nineveh —which the Bible account never mentions. And although God is mentioned several times throughout the movie, God’s rebuke to Jonah found in Jonah 4: 10, 11 is paraphrased and comes from the mouth of a talking worm named Khalil. The voice of God replaced with a voice of a worm?

One might argue that artistic license is quite assumed when from the outset the characters are vegetables and the story a layered version of the original in the Old Testament text. But how far ought Bible stories be taken to create mass appeal? The Veggie Tale parable certainly seems to have mainstream appeal; it has brought in $6.2 million and garnered sixth in box office ratings in its first weekend in early October.

If you can get past those discrepancies and the extra translation of the story for mainstream appeal, you may find this movie entertaining, uplifting, and a helpful nudge to our consciences when we forget God’s great mercy on the ones we might otherwise condemn.

Jonah deserves two fins up!New Wineskins

Contact Natalie: [nnoah@wmed.org]
Natalie Noah-Wilson is a dietitian diabetes educator. Her husband, Eric, is executive director of The Zoe Group. They have two children: three-year old Tristan and two-year-old Lainey. They live in Nashville, Tennessee. Favorite Faith & Film Flick: The Fourth Wise Man.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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