Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie (2008)

Who's in it: Pirate vegetables.

What's it about: A flawed trio of servers at a pirate-themed dinner theater are pulled back in time and asked to help a princess rescue her brother from their evil, pirate uncle.

How is it: It's impossible for me to review this objectively. I'm hugely fond of writer/filmmaker Phil Vischer and the VeggieTales DVD series he co-created with Mike Nawrocki in the '90s. They're hilarious, the songs are great, and the retellings of Biblical stories are inventive and fun. One of the best features of each DVD was the "Silly Songs with Larry" segment in which Larry the Cucumber comes out and sings a silly song. And the best of these was "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything."

The animation was crude - especially by today's standards - but it was hugely popular and when Vischer and Nawrocki finally made the big screen feature film, Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie in 2002, they included the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything in the supporting cast. It didn't come as a surprise that several years later the trio got their own movie a year after the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy concluded.

Despite the fact that TPWDDA seems sort of genetically engineered to appeal to me, I not only didn't see it in the theater, but I didn't even see it at all until this past week when I got the hankering to start watching some pirate movies again.

The most surprising thing about it is that - like the "Silly Songs" segment of the original show - it's pretty secular. TPWDDA teaches values, but they're not specifically Christian values. The flaws that the heroes have to overcome are things like fear and laziness, issues that everyone can relate to. And they succeed by deciding to embrace adventure and do the right thing regardless of the consequences. There is a weird bit at the end in which the princess and prince's father presents himself as sort of an Aslan-like character who may be an analog for God, but it's a speedbump in an otherwise fun, piratey adventure.

The animation has come a long way since the DVD series, but it doesn't stand well next to Pixar, DreamWorks, or really any of the major animation studios. And while the story is romping (lots of shipboard adventure, island hopping, and killer cheese curls!) and the songs are great (I especially love the "Rock Monster" parody of "Rock Lobster" over the end credits, but there are fun, original songs too), it's neither as meaningful as WALL-E or as raucously awesome as Kung Fu Panda, both of which came out that same year. As a movie for VeggieTales and ocean adventure fans though - of which I am both - TPWDDA is thoroughly enjoyable.

Final Grade: B


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

This screenshot at the bottom certainly looks more cinematic than I would expect from Veggie Tales.

Michael May said...

If your frame of reference is the Veggie Tales DVDs, it's a significant leap forward in animation quality.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Especially since I probably haven't seen a Veggie Tales video in about ten years if not more.

Michael May said...

I was pretty surprised when I embedded that old clip at how crude the animation was in the '90s. My memory was that it was a lot better.


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