Big Idea // 2004 // 49 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // April 15th, 2009
Ebenezer Nezzer is out of control!
Easter is coming and the whole town is excited. St. Bart's Church is preparing for their big Easter service, which will be commemorated by the unveiling of a brand new stained-glass window. However, there's one person...er, vegetable...who isn't so happy about the church service. He's a cantankerous old cucumber named Ebenezer Nezzer, and he runs the local Easter factory. What's an Easter factory, you may ask? Well, Mr. Nezzer manufactures plastic eggs, baskets, and other Easter goodies. He thinks that everyone should be buying plastic eggs and candy on Easter, and he's upset that the church keeps everybody "cooped up" on that special Sunday. So, Mr. Nezzer vows that he is going to tear down the church and build an Easter-themed amusement park on the land, where everyone will have plenty of ways to spend their money on his Easter products. This greatly distresses numerous folks in the town, and it's going to take a visit from a little angel named Hope (voiced by singer Rebecca St. James) to show Mr. Nezzer the selfishness of his actions.
Like several other members of the DVD Verdict reviewing team, I'm not particularly enthusiastic about many Christian-themed straight-to-DVD releases designed for kids. As a Christian myself, I've cringed far too often at the heavy-handed sermonizing and poor production values of these videos. Back in the mid-1990s, VeggieTales came to the rescue. Promising to combine "Saturday morning fun" with "Sunday morning values," the animated releases have consistently delivered genuinely entertaining and witty stories with positive messages that aren't awkwardly shoved down the viewer's throat. Though some videos have been stronger than others, I've never seen a bad VeggieTales adventure, and VeggieTales: An Easter Carol is no exception.
Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol has been adapted to death at this point, with everyone from The Muppets to Alvin and the Chipmunks offering their own unique spin on the story. Perhaps realizing that there was absolutely no need for another Christmas production based on A Christmas Carol, the fine folks at Big Idea decided to switch holidays entirely and give the story an Easter weekend backdrop. The unusual move works surprisingly well, and allows the Veggies to act out a tale that feels more or less like the Easter equivalent of A Charlie Brown Christmas: a gentle and amusing reminder that the holiday used to have meaningful religious roots before it was turned into a profitable commercial enterprise for businesses everywhere.
As in pretty much all adaptations of the story, Ebenezer is placed front and center. Though VeggieTales fans will enjoy seeing the likes of Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, Pa Grape and the French Peas "playing" various supporting parts, they're merely window dressing here. The meat of the film is found during the dialogue exchanges between Nezzer and Hope (an angel filling the role of all three ghosts, though the ghost of Nezzer's grandmother does actually turn up in a Jacob Marley-inspired moment of hallucination). There's a particularly inventive scene in which the angel uses a series of stained-glass windows to offer a traditional re-telling of Christ's resurrection. Initially the Easter story itself was going to receive the VeggieTales treatment until the folks at Big Idea decided they didn't want to portray Jesus as a vegetable. The solution provided here is a very inventive one.
As with most modern animated flicks, this one receives a fairly pristine transfer. Colors are bright and lively, blacks are deep, and the level of detail is quite solid. The animation here is hardly at feature film level, but it's nonetheless a good deal more impressive than the average straight-to-DVD CGI outing. The 5.1 audio is surprisingly rich and well-mixed, offering a bit of subwoofer rumbling and rather immersive rear speaker action. Extras include an audio commentary with the VeggieTales cast and crew, a 7-minute making-of featurette, and a whole host of kid-friendly side items: a karaoke game, some drawing activities, an art gallery, an interactive storybook, an easter egg hunt game, a maze game, some trivia, a featurette about stained glass, and some additional DVD-Rom features. Lots of goodies for the kids to sort through, but the commentary and making-of featurette are geared towards those interesting in the filmmaking process.
Most Christian parents with younger children out there are undoubtedly all ready familiar with the franchise, but if you aren't, An Easter Carol is as good a place as any to start. Viewers of other religious persuasions may not be comfortable with the resurrection story centerpiece here, but there's honestly enough good storytelling and entertainment here to satisfy younger viewers of all backgrounds. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Idea
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 49 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Art Gallery
* DVD-ROM Fun