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

It was the biggest football game of his life and Stewart (Larry the Cucumber) had a chance to win it all. Injured in one bad play, his hopes of playing in the Salad Bowl - and living a life of fame and fortune - are dashed forever. Years later, silly-but-sweet Stewart loves his family, friends and job at the toy train factory, but still wonders “what if” things had been different. When he meets a mysterious train conductor who can turn back time, Stewart gets a chance to have the life he always wanted. Will he find all he’s been looking for? And what does this mean for those he loves most? Find out in this story of wonder and a lesson in being content.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 50 min.
Price: $14.97
Release Date: 10/5/2010

• Audio Commentary with Creator/Writer/Actor Mike Nawrocki and Producer/Director Brian Roberts
• “All Aboard: Larry Rides a Real Train” Featurette
• Family Guide
• Art Gallery with Commentary
• Music Video
• “Behind the Song” Featurette
• SingAlong
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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VeggieTales: It's A Meaningful Life (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 4, 2010)

Frank Capra gets the VeggieTales treatment with 2010’s It’s a Meaningful Life. During a big college football game, Stewart (voiced by Mike Nawrocki) gets tripped by his dopey pal Morty (Phil Vischer) with the winning score on the line. Morty catches the ball and earns all the glory, while Stewart gets hurt and ends up out of football forever.

Without football in his future, Stewart agrees to work at his dad’s toy train factory, which is where we find him 15 years later. He tries to keep the business running and he indulges his love of sports as the coach of his son’s team. In the meantime, we learn that Morty went onto to pro football stardom, and he plans to come home for the first time in years.

Morty offers to buy Stewart’s train factory as part of his plan to take over his hometown. Since this scheme requires the firing of all the workers, Stewart refuses, and this puts him at odds with his old buddy. Stewart’s last-ditch attempt to keep the factory chugging goes awry, and it looks like Morty will win.

Mired in self-pity, Stewart wonders how his life would’ve gone if he’d caught the football and been the hero. Out of nowhere, the “What If Express” appears, and its conductor gives Stewart a shot to see what would’ve happened if he’d experienced his moment of gridiron glory.

Over the last 64 years, we’ve seen umpteen riffs on It’s a Wonderful Life, so you’re forgiven if you viewed a VeggieTales interpretation with a yawn. After all, the tale’s been beaten to death – what new could be brought to the table?

A fair amount, as it happens, at least in the case of Meaningful. While it uses the film’s basic framework, it veers into its own territory and doesn’t just feel like a cheap rehash of the Capra flick. Indeed, it mashes Capra with Polar Express and Christmas Carol, but it never feels like a clumsy collection of influences. The story manages to blend together pretty well and create its own world.

I will say that one of the show’s main premises makes no sense: how did Morty go on to become a major football star? In college, he was a bumbling bum; he only earned fame due to an accident that he caused! Wouldn’t his lack of skill have been exposed quickly once he got to the pros?

(I can accept talking vegetables but not this – hmm…)

Odd leaps of logic aside, Meaningful turns into one of the more satisfying VeggieTales offerings in a while. It delivers a coherent story and entertains along the way. Despite a few weaknesses, the program’s overall impact remains positive.

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

VeggieTales: It’s a Meaningful Life appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For a standard-def DVD, this one looked terrific.

Sharpness was very nice. Virtually no softness impacted the presentation, as the show appeared pretty concise and accurate. Jagged edges were minimal, and I noticed no haloes or shimmering. Source flaws failed to create any distractions.

Like most VeggieTales programs, this one went with a broad palette. The colors appeared lively and peppy throughout the show. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed clear and concise. Across the board, the episode provided solid visuals.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Life, it worked pretty well. The show’s first half lacked much pep, but the more fantasy-oriented second half demonstrated greater flair. Shots with the train moved and engulfed well, and a few other moments gave the piece some zing. The elements blended nicely and offered a decent setting.

Audio quality was positive. Music showed good range and vivacity, while speech seemed natural and concise. Effects offered nice clarity and accuracy, and low-end response was fine. Nothing here excelled, but the track satisfied.

The usual VeggieTales extras round out the set. These launch with an audio commentary from creator/actor/writer Mike Nawrocki and producer/director Brian Roberts. They sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story and themes, cast, characters and performances, visual and technical elements, influences, music, and other topics.

Odd point: unless I missed it, neither Nawrocki nor Roberts ever actually alludes to It’s a Wonderful Life. Despite that strange omission, the pair offer a good little commentary. They deliver a nice range of details and do so in an enjoyable manner. The track moves well and keeps us interested.

A Music Video for Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Meant to Be” follows. It mixes studio shots of Chapman, clips from the show, and some photos of kids. The song does nothing for me, and the video bores.

Behind the Song “Meant to Be” runs four minutes. Chapman discusses the tune, working with VeggieTales, and some topics reflected in the show. He seems heartfelt, so I’m sure his message will work for fans.

Another featurette follows via the four-minute, 27-second Larry Rides a Real Train. “Railroad Steve” of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum tells us a little about trains, and we take a virtual ride on one. We also see a little of the museum. We learn a smidgen of info here, but mostly this feels like an ad for the museum.

An Art Gallery features 12 screens of concept and character drawings. Prior galleries also included commentary but this one doesn’t. It’s till got some good shots, but I miss the comments.

Next we get a Sing-Along for “Goodnight Junior” (2:28). It displays the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, and the audio button allows you to turn on or off the vocals. Simply the same scene from the show, it does nothing for me, but kids might enjoy it.

Under Meaningful Family Life Guide, we get some text. This uses the letters in “meaningful” to offer tips on ways to keep your family happy. My family’s beyond help, but maybe this’ll be good for yours.

An ad for The 27th Annual Crisper County Easter Pageant opens the DVD. It also appears in the Previews area along with clips for SweetPea Beauty, Saint Nicholas, Show Hope, Secret Keeper Girl and Family Life.

Rather than simply rehash its influences, It’s a Meaningful Life manages to develop a reasonably creative story of its own. It packs the usual morals in a satisfying way and turns into a creative, enjoyable show. The DVD features very good picture, pretty nice audio and a few extras highlighted by an interesting commentary. VeggieTales fans should dig this release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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