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BIG IDEA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Brian Roberts
Cast:
Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Gigi Abraham, Megan Murphy
Writing Credits:
- unknown -

Synopsis:
When Junior Asparagus and his Veggie friends learn that Laura Carrot’s dad has lost his job on Christmas Eve, Bob the Tomato decides to tell the kids a very special story about giving. Using a big storybook and a little imagination, they all travel back to ancient Greece to meet Saint Nicholas — the world’s greatest giver.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 47 min.
Price: $14.93
Release Date: 10/6/2009

Bonus:
• Studio Commentary with Director Brian Roberts and Producer Chris Wall
• “Discussion Guide”
• Art Gallery with Commentary
• “SingAlong Song”
• Family Fun Activity
• Music Video
• “Behind the Song” Featurette
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


VeggieTales: Saint Nicholas (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 3, 2009)

VeggieTales goes seasonal once again with 2009’s Saint Nicholas – A Story of Joyful Giving. In this one, we find the veggies on Christmas Eve. When it appears that the kids don’t understand much about Santa beyond the obvious, Bob the Tomato (Phil Vischer) tells the tale of Nicholas (Gigi Abraham).

Along with goofball ignoramus Larry the Cucumber (Mike Nawrocki), we head to the 3rd century to see young Nick as he makes a discovery in Bethlehem that will impact Christmas in the long-term. We also learn how this affects the veggies in the present day. In particular, we observe the tale of Laura Carrot (Megan Murphy) and her potentially unemployed dad (Nawrocki).

If nothing else, Giving gets points for historical accuracy – kinda. Of course, it takes many liberties with Saint Nicholas’s “origin story” – I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually a vegetable – but the show does give us a decent overview of some historical tidbits. It certainly will offer a good starting point for the kids who watch it.

Unfortunately, much of Giving just seems cliché and somewhat confused. It offers the standard anti-materialistic/let’s all help others message, but it doesn’t follow it in a particularly logical manner. In addition, the show often feels like it exists just to promote Operation Christmas Child. I’m sure that’s a worthy cause, but I don’t particularly want to see a 45-minute program intended just to push the organization.

VeggieTales usually walks a fine line as it promotes moral lessons; it alludes to Biblical teachings but tends to avoid preachiness. Usually. Giving feels a bit more sanctimonious than most of its predecessors. Granted, the show’s overt focus on Christmas-related topics makes it more inevitable that this will occur, but I still think the program’s less subtle than normal.

That doesn’t make it a bad show, really, but it’s not one of the better VeggieTales offerings. The humor seems more forced than usual – “Greece is the word”? Ugh! – and the tale just doesn’t move very well. The only real highlight comes from the program’s “Silly Song”. Like the main story, “Donuts For Benny” has a message, but since that message is the bizarre “don’t give donuts to dogs”, it goes down easy. “Benny” has more life and creativity than anything found in the rest of Giving.

Maybe I should simply avoid holiday-related VeggieTales programs. I like their non-holiday shows, but I don’t think I’ve been especially wild about the series other Christmas and Easter pieces. Saint Nicholas – A Story of Joyful Giving isn’t a poor program, but it never quite comes together. It’s mediocre VeggieTales.


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

VeggieTales: Saint Nicholas – A Story of Joyful Giving 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. I’ve watched a lot of VeggieTales DVDs, and they all tend to look a lot alike. That trend continued with Giving.

The show looked crisp and detailed. Some other shows in the series could be a bit soft, but this one appeared well-developed. Some light jagged edges appeared, and a few examples of moiré effects occurred as well, but these were minor. Edge enhancement and print flaws appeared absent during this clean image.

The world of VeggieTales offered a very bright and varied palette, and Giving 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, Giving provided a satisfying visual experience.

Also fairly strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Giving. For the most part, this soundfield stayed with an emphasis on the forward spectrum, where it offered nicely broad and engaging audio. With its action sequences, Umbrella 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.

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.

If you’ve watched other VeggieTales DVDs, you’ll know what to expect from the extras of Nicholas, though we find a skimpier than usual collection. We start with an audio commentary from director Brian Roberts and producer Chris Wall, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss the project’s roots and development, research and factual elements, story and character notes, animation issues, influences, songs and score, the actors and performances, the visual style, story subjects/changes, and various challenges.

We previously heard Wall and Roberts on a commentary for Big River Rescue. They gave us a well above-average track there, and that streak continues with the excellent chat for Giving. The discussion starts with a head of steam and never lets up across the program’s 45 minutes or so. This is a consistently funny, enjoyable and insightful commentary.

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

An Art Gallery features 16 screens 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; the latter runs nine minutes. 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.

Next we get a Sing-Along presentation for “Donuts for Benny”. This three-minute, two-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. Simply the same scene from the show, it does nothing for me, but kids might enjoy it.

Under Family Fun Activity, we find “Bob and Larry’s Sugar Cookies”. The two-minute and 37-second piece shows how families can turn baking cookies into a game. It’s potentially fun for kids.

The song “Give This Christmas Away” becomes the focal point of the next two extras. We find a totally forgettable Music Video and a clip called Behind the Song. That one runs four minutes, 55 seconds as it shows comments from musicians Matthew West and Amy Grant. They discuss the song and the Operation Christmas Child cause it supports. A few mildly interesting notes emerge, but don’t expect much.

Ads for Pistachio and Operation Christmas Child open the DVD. They also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah’s Umbrella, I>Abe and the Amazing Promise, Here I Am to Worship, MOPS and CURE International.

The VeggieTales series makes a minor misstep with the lackluster Saint Nicholas – A Story of Joyful Giving. The show has its moments – highlighted by a better than average “Silly Song” – but it generally fails to deliver much inspiration. The DVD comes with the usual excellent visuals as well as good audio and a mix of decent extras highlighted by a strong commentary. Though I wasn’t wild about the main program, I couldn’t claim about the quality of this nice DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 7
75:
04:
0 3:
02:
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