Wednesday, April 8, 2015

VeggieTales: Noah's Ark Review

*** I am not being compensated in any way for this review. Please note that it is purely my opinion, and that of my highly opinionated 4 year old. ***

I'm stepping outside of my box a bit, because I felt compelled to write a review here about the new VeggieTales movie that was released a few weeks ago.  I think it's because VeggieTales are a staple in our house, and the shows/movies are frequently Judith's go-to choices during treatment times.

This past fall, some big changes happened to a huge franchise in the Christian community. For 20+ years, Big Idea produced many videos in the VeggieTales series, promoting Christian values and retelling Biblical stories in their own, unique way. But as they were developing a new series for Netflix, a total overhaul of the beloved characters occurred; the design was drastically changed, and many of the voices were also changed.

Did you ever hear the old joke about Lutherans?

How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb?
Change?  What's change?
 ::cue laugh track::

I'm a lifelong Lutheran who will readily admit that I hate change. I'm not totally resistant to it, and at times I even embrace it, but that doesn't mean I won't complain at times. The changes to my beloved Veggies really irritated me at first. Like, REALLY irritated me. Eventually I started to accept the redesign in small ways, but never fully accepted it. I wanted to try and accept it as quickly as I did with other redesigns (like the redesign of My Little Pony, for example), but it wasn't happening. The other kicker that prevents me from fully accepting it at this point: the voicing changes. Some of the major characters are the same, but many are not, and it's more than noticeable and actually upsets Judith.

You may be wondering what all of that has to do with the latest VeggieTales movie, Noah's Ark. It actually has a lot to do with it, because this movie uses the new design and the new voicings.  I'm going to break my review down into a few categories, and then give my overall rating.

The story line is classic VeggieTales. Obviously, since it's the story of Noah's ark, it's based off the account from the book of Genesis. There is a unique Veggie twist to the story, such as the ark being a giant orange slice. It's similar to other shows/movies in the franchise that pull the story from the Bible, like Joshua and the battle of Jericho, Jonah and the big fish, etc.

One big difference that I picked up after the first viewing, and now with subsequent viewings, is the omission of some of the "punny" humor and subtle jokes that kids wouldn't necessarily pick up on, but the adults watching with them would get. There is a little bit here and there, but not nearly as present as it was in the past. I miss that. I'm not overly bothered by most children's shows, and can certainly tolerate watching them with Judith, but when you have something like VeggieTales that stands out with adding some humor for the teens and adults watching and all of a sudden it's gone, a fan is definitely going to notice.

Otherwise, the story was generally well done.

This part is a hot topic around the internet. Like I stated earlier, I accept the design in some ways, but haven't fully embraced it. I understand why they did it, but at the same time I wish they wouldn't have messed with a good thing. The new design is certainly more streamlined and modern, but it's the small things that are irritating. Things like Madame Blueberry; I mean, was it really necessary to put bags under her eyes? The poor blueberry now looks like she's constantly sleep deprived. Junior Asparagus is now missing his trademark hat, something that Judith has commented on ("Mommy, where's Junior's hat?"), and to be extra frank, she now has to think about who he is because he looks like a run of the mill asparagus and doesn't have his unique, prominent identifier. And the French Peas? The overexaggerated mustaches make them look bizarre at best.

My biggest sticking point is the eyes. It's not necessarily the color that was added. Want to add color? No biggie. It's the fact that now they don't have nearly as much life as the previous designs did, and if I'm completely honest, they're kind of creepy. They remind me of similar eye designs on children's cartoon characters like Daniel Tiger. It's that vacant, almost piercing stare that does it. It's one of the design features that I feel has turned the franchise into another "dime a dozen" cartoon, which has cheapened the franchise. Yes, they're still kind of unique because hey, they're produce, after all. It's just disappointing that they're not as unique as they were with the original designs, and don't stand out quite as much.

Judith noticed the difference with the eye design rather quickly. It didn't take long for her to declare that she did not like their eyes, and she said she likes the "old ones better."

This is another sticking point with me, and at this point it's probably the biggest deal breaker.  Judith is not thrilled with it either, particularly with the change in Junior's and Petunia Rhubarb's voices. It was the one thing causing me to hesitate when I was deciding what VeggieTales DVDs to get to put in her Easter basket, and I wasn't having any luck with my searches. Scuttlebutt online was that the voices would be the same as they previously were, with the re-voicing only happening for the Netflix series. Now I know that this is not the case.

Some of the characters did retain their original voicing, namely those voiced by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki. So there is some consistency with the older shows/movies. It's the characters that were re-voiced that's bothersome and causing Judith to ask questions.

One stand out, though, is Wayne Brady. I'm a big Wayne Brady fan, and when I saw that he was voicing Shem, that was the one thing that helped me to decide to pre-order the DVD and give it a whirl. Wayne Brady really did do a fantastic job, and I kind of wish they would've tried to feature him in a previous show/movie.

Summary of Thoughts
Overall, the story is nice and has the familiar feel of a Biblical story with a VeggieTales twist, but the lack of puns and other humor that was so prevalent in the past made Noah's Ark fall a bit flat. It didn't jump out and wow me like the shows/movies of the past have done. Combine that with the redesigns, and I'm not totally sure that I will be spending money on buying the actual DVDs to add to our collection, at least not right away. For now, new releases are going to be viewed on Netflix or another streaming site that carries it first, because the redesign is not holding Judith's attention like the old designs were. In the past year or so, I knew I could buy any VeggieTales DVD for her, and it would be a hit, but now? Not so much.

My Rating
On a scale of 1-5 stars, 1 being the worst and 5 being the best, I give Noah's Ark 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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