VeggieTales: Sweetpea Beauty appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD. The last Veggietales DVD I saw offered widescreen visuals, so it came as a disappointment that this one regressed to 1.33:1 dimensions, especially since it appeared to crop material shot for 1.78:1
Despite the framing issues, the show looked pretty good. For the most part, sharpness was positive. Wider shots appeared a bit soft, and some jaggies interfered. Still, the program displayed solid clarity the majority of the time, especially given the limitations of SD-DVD. I noticed no shimmering or edge haloes, and source flaws remained absent.
As always, VeggieTales opted for a dynamic palette. The colors consistently looked nicely bright and lively, as they showed good reproduction. Blacks provided nice depth, while shadows were clear and full. I’d prefer to get another widescreen release, but even with the cropping, the image looked fine.
Not much pep came from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Beauty. More action-oriented VeggieTales offered good soundscapes, but this one tended to be pretty lackluster. A few sequences in the “Beauty” tale opened things up in a moderate way – with thunder and some other elements – but not a whole lot developed. The soundfield mostly concentrated on the front speakers and didn’t have a lot of immersive material.
I thought the track sounded fine, though not exceptional. Bass response seemed a bit weak, as the music and effects lacked much depth; those elements weren’t thin, but they didn’t boast notable heft. They were always clear, however, and reasonably well-represented. Speech was always concise and distinctive. This was an average mix.
Fans will find a typical set of supplements here. These launch with an audio commentary from director/actor/co-writer Mike Nawrocki and producer Leslie Ferrell. They sit together for a running, screen-specific look at creating a girl-oriented program, story and themes, cast, characters and performances, visual and technical elements, influences, music, and a few other issues. (Actor Cydney Trent pops up midway, but she only sticks around for about three minutes, so her involvement adds little.)
Like all VeggieTales commentaries, this one tends toward perkiness and peppiness. That doesn’t mean it does nothing more than indulge in happy talk, though. Instead, it gives us a pretty good overview of the appropriate subjects. Heck, Nawrocki and Ferrell even discuss the potential hypocrisy I mention in the body of my review, though they don’t do much to explain/justify it.
Under Princess Tea with Sweetpea, we get a two-minute, 56-second clip. This shows a bunch of little girls and asks them questions about friendship, believing in one’s self, and other topics. It’s cutesy and utterly insubstantial.
Behind the Music of Sweetpea Beauty goes for four minutes, four seconds and includes notes from singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman. She tells us a little about the song she did for the film as well as her thoughts on beauty-related insecurities. She throws out a few minor notes about the tune, but her “looks aren’t important” message seems a bit feeble from a pretty blonde – they fall into the “easy for her to say” category. A lackluster music video follows.
More of the same message-related material arrives via Sweetpea’s True Beauty Guide for Girls. This shows text with narration about Biblical lessons connected to beauty. Sorry, but all of this is getting really redundant. We just watched a full-length program about the subject; we don’t need to be beaten over the head with more of it. The “Guide” also undermines one of the more positive aspects of the VeggieTales franchise: the subtlety of its religious lessons. Pieces like “Guide” take the series down a Bible-thumping path that doesn’t make it more endearing.
An Art Gallery features 16 screens and comes with commentary from Nawrocki and concept artist 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. The art offers a nice glimpse of the details, and the commentary offers a solid explanation of the choices.
Next we get Sing-Alongs for “Pants” (1:56) and “More Beautiful” (1:41). These display the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, and the audio button allows you to turn on or off the vocals. Simply the same scenes from the show, they do nothing for me, but kids might enjoy them.
An ad for It’s a Meaningful Life opens the DVD. It also appears in the Previews area along with clips for Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah’s Umbrella, Pistachio, Sweetpea Songs, 25 Favorite Action Songs and 25 Favorite Toddler Songs.
The best VeggieTales offer mild moral lessons with a good sense of humor. Sweetpea Beauty comes across as more heavy-handed than usual and also less entertaining. The DVD provides very good picture, acceptable audio and erratic supplements that suffer from too much of the show’s pushy morality. Unless you’re a diehard VeggieTales fan, I’d skip this lackluster entry.