Judge Clark Douglas has no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum.
When it seems you have nothing to bring…what gift can you give the King?
It's hard to believe that VeggieTales, the Christian-themed animated straight-to-video series starring a group of lovable talking vegetables, has been running for nearly twenty years. Though some installments have been more inspired than others, the franchise has shown few signs of slowing down. Time after time, VeggieTales has proven itself to be funnier, smarter and more artful than the vast majority of modern children's entertainment (Christian-themed or otherwise). Fortunately, VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy is yet another winner.
Our story begins when an unfortunate mix-up causes young Junior Asparagus to believe his friends have excluded him from a cheerful night of Christmas caroling. Junior's grandfather decides to distract the disgruntled youth by telling him the famous story of The Little Drummer Boy. This being VeggieTales, Grandpa Asparagus' re-imagining of the tale casts Junior as the Drummer Boy, Nebbie K. Nezzer and Mr. Lunt as the slippery entertainers the boy encounters, Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and Archibald Asparagus as the three wise men, and so on. If you're familiar with the original Rankin/Bass television special (which in turn was based on the 1955 song which quickly became a holiday standard), you'll be familiar with most of the major story beats this version of the tale offers, but VeggieTales naturally brings its trademark wit and tenderness to the table that makes this a worthy (if not quite definitive) variation.
Some parents may object to the notion of Christian-themed entertainment, but if you're looking for some quality material to keep the kids entertained, I'd recommend at least giving VeggieTales a try. Unlike much Christian entertainment, VeggieTales generally avoids the sort of overbearing sermonizing which often afflicts such stuff. Sure, the morals are Biblically based, but they're the sort of gentle messages kids of all stripes can benefit from (love your neighbor, tell the truth, be yourself and so on). The Little Drummer Boy primarily focuses on forgiveness, as the title character must learn to let go of his resentment towards humanity after tragedy strikes his family (it may sound dark, but the film handles this material in an appreciably delicate manner).
However, the real reason to savor VeggieTales is the consistently surprising humor, which runs much closer to The Muppet Show and Monty Python's Flying Circus than Davey and Goliath. In this case, the highlight may well be Larry's Star Wars-inspired attempts to turn a hapless camel into a "sand speeder." There's also the requisite "Silly Song": "The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas," which affectionately examines the common Polish culinary trend of wrapping meat inside of other foods.
VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy receives an excellent DVD transfer, offering bright colors, excellent detail (which does occasionally highlight the limitations of the animation, but c'mon, it's not like they have a Pixar-sized budget) and impressive shading. There are instances of banding on occasion, however. Audio is also sturdy, well-mixed and clear throughout. Supplements are light and kid-friendly: a "Little Drummer Boy" music video featuring gospel stars Bebe and Cece Winans and three lightweight featurettes ("Visit a Drum Factory with Junior," "Behind the Music of the Little Drummer Boy" and "Family Activity: Make Your Own Drum"), some singalong versions of the songs and and interactive book preview.
VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy is another fine installment from this long-running series. If you're looking for a solid way to keep the kids occupied during the holiday season, here ya go.
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