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Brian K. Roberts
Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki
Writing Credits:
Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki

Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry dream of building a home and starting their respective dream businesses - Tom's Tax Service and Huck's Jerkey Land. In the meantime, though, they're surviving each day living on a raft, drifting along through the Mississippi River. Their situation is thrown in the blender when they suddenly have to decide if helping a complete stranger - a fugitive looking for his mom - by using everything they've earned for themselves is the right thing to do. This twist on classic characters comes from VeggieTales, the television, home market, and theatrical phenomenon.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 50 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 7/15/2008

• Studio Commentary with Director Brian K. Roberts and Producer J. Chris Wall
• “Making Big River Rescue” Featurette
• “Writing a Biscuit Silly Song” Featurette
• Art Gallery with Commentary
• VideoTrivia
• Silly Song SingAlong
• Interactive Storybook
• “Huckleberry’s Word Puzzle Game”
• How to Draw Huckleberry Larry and Tomato Sawyer
• How to Draw Little Jimmy
• “Why We Made Big River Rescue” Featurette
• “Family Activity” Featurette
• “Discussion Guide”
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


VeggieTales: Tomato Sawyer And Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 22, 2008)

Let’s check out some more VeggieTales fun with the series’ newest release, Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry’s Big River Rescue. As you can guess, Mark Twain offers the nominal inspiration for the disc’s main tale, though it does so in a very loose manner.

Bookends with hosts Larry the Cucumber (voiced by Mike Nawrocki) and Bob the Tomato (Phil Vischer) frame the material. After the introduction, we meet “Clark Wayne” (Vischer), the piece’s narrator. Set in 1904, he takes us on a trip down the Mississippi and lets us meet ruthless lumber harvester Dooley (Vischer). He cuts down all the trees he can find and lets nothing – and no one – stand in his way. As punishment for an alleged theft, a vegetable behemoth named Big Jim (Vischer) slaves for Dooley. Of course, he doesn’t enjoy this work, so he escapes when he gets the chance.

From there we meet Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry, homesteaders who will soon take legal possession of their property. Larry dreams of opening a jerky-based theme park, while Tom wants to be a tax accountant. Dooley encounters them and warns them to watch out for Big Jim.

Inevitably, they encounter the monstrous man and find out he just wants to get back with his mother and rekindle the singing act they used to do. Although he seems unthreatening, Larry and Tom still panic and set off the signal flare given to them by Dooley. They quickly come to regret this and decide to do what they can to save Jim even though their absence threatens their claim to their property.

Many VeggieTales efforts provide a mix of short bits compiled into one program, but Rescue instead concentrates on this one tale. Oh, it branches off slightly at times; as it nears its midway point, it gives us a “Silly Song” as a little break. Nonetheless, it usually stays with the title story.

I like the structure, as it’s nice to get a longer, richer tale. There’s nothing wrong with the shorter bits found on many VeggieTales, but they sometimes seem a little too brief. This disc gives Rescue some room to breath, and the extra time works.

Part of the reason for that comes from the flexibility to provide quirkiness. VeggieTales has always played like a kiddie-style “Monty Python”, and the series’ most amusing bits tend to come from the little throwaway elements it tosses at us. When the series sticks with short segments, it focuses more tightly on story and loses some of the looseness that can make it fun.

That’s not a problem with Rescue. Since the one tale fills so much of the DVD’s running time, it allows the show to boast more silliness for its own sake. That could seem self-indulgent at times, I suppose, but in this case, it doesn’t. Instead, the extra flexibility allows the program to delve into some amusing goofiness.

At the series’ best, it conveys gentle parables that teach lessons without heavy-handed elements. These shows convey their messages but avoid seeming pedantic or overly righteous. Sometimes the VeggieTales make their goals a little too obvious, but that doesn’t occur here. The show sets up its theme at the start – it’s about standing up for others and doing what’s right – but it never beats us over the head with this.

In fact, the show often keeps the theme so loose that you might forget it exists. Some may see that as a mistake, as they may desire greater moral definition, but I don’t think it’s a problem. Instead, it means that the show feels less like propaganda and more like a piece with a gentle message. Rescue ends up as one of the more satisfying VeggieTales adventures.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

VeggieTales: Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry’s Big River Rescue appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Rescue matched up fairly well with prior VeggieTales releases.

For the most part, the show looked crisp and detailed. However, the image was a little fuzzy at the edges on occasion and lacked terrific clarity of past shows. Some jagged edges appeared, and a few examples of moiré effects occurred as well; these were minor but occasionally noticeable. Edge enhancement was modest, but print flaws appeared absent during this clean image.

The world of VeggieTales offered a very bright and varied palette, and Rescue followed with a strong batch of colors. The tones went with a pastel look, and the DVD replicated these well. The hues were clear and distinctive. Black levels were also nicely deep and rich, and though shadow detail was only a minor consideration, all of those sorts of shots came across as appropriately clean and visible. Ultimately, Rescue provided a satisfying visual experience.

Also fairly strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Rescue. For the most part, this soundfield stayed with an emphasis on the forward spectrum, where it offered nicely broad and engaging audio. Rescue provided relatively active audio. Elements moved nicely across the front and formed a good feeling of environment. The effects meshed together well, especially during the show’s action sequences.

The surrounds also added a fair amount to the mix. The rear speakers kicked in some good material at times. The action sequences worked best and contributed a fun feel.

Sound quality seemed consistent with prior releases. Audio quality seemed to be fine across the board. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and it showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and when appropriate they came to life quite vividly. Bass response was loud and deep. This was a good track that contributed to the effectiveness of the piece.

This release of Big River Rescue contains a broad roster of supplements. We start in the “Behind the Scenes” area with an audio commentary from director Brian K. Roberts and producer J. Chris Wall, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss story and character notes, animation issues, influences, songs and score, the actors and performances, and various challenges.

Prior VeggieTales commentaries tended to be pretty lackluster, but this one proves to be quite good. Roberts and Wall dig into the appropriate topics well and deliver a lot of good insights. We learn about a mix of useful subjects in this brisk and informative chat.

Next we find Making Big River Rescue. This seven-minute and 58-second program shows clips from the movie and includes remarks from Wall, Roberts, director of music Kurt Heinecke, and writer/co-creator/actor Phil Vischer. They give us some thoughts about the characters and story, music and various animation challenges.

Much of the program comes from a chat the filmmakers had with some kids. I thought that’d be a recipe for cutesy doom, but darned if the tykes don’t ask some decent questions. A moderate amount of info repeats from the commentary, but this remains a good little piece. In particular, Heinecke’s thoughts about the music prove insightful.

Writing a Biscuit Silly Song goes for three minutes, 47 seconds as it features Roberts and songwriters Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame. As you might expect, the featurette looks at the composition of the show’s “Silly Song”. Despite its brevity, it covers the subject in an informative and amusing manner.

The “Behind the Scenes” area finishes with an Art Gallery. It features 15 images and comes with commentary from Roberts and art director Joe Spadaford. You can skip through the art at will or just let it run with the narration. We see concept and character drawings while we learn about the various design topics. I like the art and think the notes offer good explanations of the choices.

More extras appear in the “Fun and Games” section. Fans can try the Video Trivia at either “easy” or “hard” levels. The “easy” items are made even simpler because the game shows you clips with the answers before you must reply. The “hard” part actually requires you to remember parts of the show – most of the time at least, as a few still give you clues. They’re pretty easy if you saw the program, so don’t expect any tough questions.

If you get through the “Trivia”, you get two rewards. There’s a coupon you can use at the Big Idea web store and also a “Bonus Clip”. It provides a story reel of a deleted scene. I’m happy that you actually get a prize for success here, as prior VeggieTales trivia games lacked any such rewards.

Next we get a Sing-Along presentation for “The Biscuit of Zazzamarandabo”. This three-minute, 37-second clip shows the veggies as they croon the song. It displays the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, and the audio button allows you to turn on or off the vocals. It does nothing for me, but kids might enjoy it.

After this we locate an Interactive Storybook for Helpers Are Heroes. This allows you to read the tale independently or have it read to you. The presentation seems somewhat static but at least it offers the voice of Bob the Tomato to narrate.

Huckleberry’s Word Puzzle Game requires you to figure out rebuses. Well, not really; the program leads you through them in a simplistic manner that doesn’t give you much room on your own. The spoon-feeding might be good for kids, though many won’t feel much of a challenge.

Next we learn How to Draw three characters. This teaches how to make Huckleberry Larry and Tomato Sawyer (10 minutes, three seconds) and Little Jimmy (11:22). Both offer reasonably informative and fun tutorials.

Called “Parents”, the next domain offers some tidbits for… parents, obviously. Why We Made Big River Rescue runs three minutes, 15 seconds and features comments from Vischer, Heinecke, Wall, Roberts and co-creator/actor Mike Nawrocki. They tell us a little about the story adaptation and their goals. It doesn’t give us much but it provides some minor insights into motivation.

After this we get a Family Activity. A two-minute and 20-second piece, it continues the “helping others” theme and shows kids what they can do to support family and friends. It’s a decent way to support the show’s moral.

A few text questions appear under Discussion Guide. This is simply a way for families to chat about various issues with the kids.

An ad for The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything opens the DVD. It also appears in the Previews area along with clips for Lessons from the Sock Drawer, 3-2-1 Penguins: Save the Planets, The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s, Veg-Out!, Greatest Hits and VeggieTales Worship Songs.

One of the better VeggieTales programs, Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry’s Big River Rescue often hits the target. It provides a gentle message without too much heavy-handedness, and it amuses with many clever tidbits. The DVD offers typically good picture and audio along with a nice little collection of supplements highlighted by a solid audio commentary. Expect a fun show and a quality DVD here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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