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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mike Nawrocki
Cast:
Mike Nawrocki, Cydney Trent, Rebecca Walker, Megan Murphy
Writing Credits:
Mike Nawrocki, -unknown-

Synopsis:
VeggieTales does it again in this delightful collection of well-known fairy tales with a Veggie twist. Appealing mostly to girls (although young boys will secretly enjoy them, too), the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty take on a new dimension when enacted by the VeggieTale gang. Parents sometimes complain that the focus on love and perfect princes isn’t appropriate for young children. The VeggieTales rendition of these beloved stories puts this worry to rest. Instead of romantic love, the focus is on friendship. The girls still get to dream about being princesses, but only if they remember that princesses are special - just as God made them. They are also reminded that princesses are only truly beautiful when they have inner beauty. Silly songs, appealing music, bright colors and interesting stories make this DVD a fabulous addition to a home or church collection.

MPAA:
Rated NR

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

Runtime: 51 min.
Price: $14.97
Release Date: 8/3/2010

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Mike Nawrocki and Producer Leslie Ferrell
• “Princess Tea With Sweetpea”
• “Behind the Music of Sweetpea Beauty” Featurette
• Art Gallery with Commentary
• Music Video
• “Sweetpea’s True Beauty Guide for Girls”
• Two SingAlongs
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


VeggieTales: Sweetpea Beauty (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2010)

Most prior VeggieTales offerings either aimed for a pretty general audience or they shot for the boys. That orientation changes with 2010’s Sweetpea Beauty, a VeggieTales piece clearly meant for the girls. (I doubt too many young boys will be eager to grab a DVD that comes in bright pink packaging.)

Larry the Cucumber (voiced by Mike Nawrocki) feels insecure about his looks, so Petunia (Cydney Trent) tries to teach him that looks aren’t important. This launches into two stories: “Snoodlerella”, in which a “Snoodle” girl (Rebecca Walker) thinks she’s inferior to her pretty sisters. “Sweetpea Beauty” show vain Queen Blueberry (Megan Murphy) and her desire to be named the loveliest in the land. She runs into competition from Sweetpea Beauty (Trent), the actual hottest babe in town, so Blueberry tries to fix the situation.

VeggieTales takes two famous fairy tales and renders them less appealing, especially in the case of “Snoodlerella”. It’s essentially a Dr. Seuss take on Cinderella with a religious tint thrown in to boot; that side of things comes out via the segment’s strange conclusion. Rather than take the logical route and have some dude fall in love with Snoodlerella due to her personality and charm, it brings out a king at the end who praises her for all her niceness over the years.

Taken on the surface, the king kind of looks like a stalker, as he knows an awful lot about a girl he never met. However, the show wants us to view the king as God, and we’re supposed to understand that God loves us no matter how butt-ugly we are.

Which is fine, but the ending still feels like a cheat. The king just comes out of nowhere and gives us a finish that doesn’t feel particularly natural. We barely know Snoodlerella; at least Disney’s Cinderella lets us see how terrific Cindy is, while we’re supposed to just assume Snoodlerella’s awesome. It’s a weak segment.

“Beauty” fares better, partially due to its fast and loose approach to fairy tales. It takes Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Goldilocks and some others, tosses them in a blender, and pours out the result. The DVD’s occasional amusing elements come from the “fractured fairy tale” vibe; in a post-Shrek world, it’s not especially original, but it’s fun.

Unfortunately, “Beauty” loses points for some hypocrisy. On one hand, it wants us to accept that everyone’s beautiful in their own way – even when our eyes see that aforementioned butt-ugliness. On the other hand, though, the show wants to prompt some cheap laughs as the queen becomes less and less attractive. Doesn’t that seem like a double standard and a messy message?

I think so, and it harms the show’s overall theme. It’s also a little strange to have a person – or a vegetable – deemed to be the most beautiful in the land decree that looks don’t matter. Easy for her to say!

The show’s message is worthwhile, of course, but Sweetpea develops it in a superficial way. Yes, I understand it’s a program meant for kids, but the episode lacks the verve and clarity I expect from VeggieTales.


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

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main