Judge David Johnson feels that this series continues to...wait for it...produce.
Sunday morning values. Saturday morning fun. Friday night snacking.
Those gleeful, morally sound talking vegetables return for their second 2007 direct-to-DVD feature and this time, the Big Idea crew invoke The Wizard of Oz to relay their family-friendly message.
Junior Asparagus stars as Darby, a forlorn, disillusioned kid working on a dental floss farm for his laid-back dude. Darby's got visions of bigger things in his roughage-laden brain than the simple farm life he's carved out with his family, and one day decides to act on it.
Lured by the enchantment of "The Wizard of Ha's," a dope-looking theme park, Darby takes his savings, his loyal pig Tutu, and leaves the farm. On the way, he's caught in a twister, takes refuge in a trailer and is lifted and tossed into a magical land of Munchies (peas that sing). From them, Darby discovers the path to the Wizard, and ends up following Yellow McToad to his destination. Along the way, Darby picks up a scarecrow, a rusted tin man and a lion (no longer the king of the forest because of the recent transition of the woodland creatures to a representative democracy), all of whom are also looking for some righteous adventure. But once the pals reach the theme park and indulge in the ridiculous amounts of fun, Darby learns the hard lesson that home isn't as bad as he thought and holy moly, I hope my dad can find it in his heart to forgive me!
That's right kids, it's all about the Prodigal Son this time!
And while we're in a total disclosure mode, I'll also confess that the last couple of Veggie Tales adventures didn't rock my world as others had in the past. While wholesome and amusing in some places, I have come to expect a solid degree of wit from the chaps at Big Idea, and had been left a little cold by some of more recent shows.
That being said, The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's is extreme fun and illustrates that the "playful parody" is a strong point for the writers and animators. The last time the Veggie Tales folks used the feature-length parody approach was with the most-excellent Lord of the Beans. The successful tradition continues here with the timeless Judy Garland classic receiving the Veggie treatment, which is, of course, more of a loving homage than a straight-up satire.
It was a smart idea to use the parody as a set-up for the Prodigal Son, an admittedly brief parable that would have a hard time taking up 40+ minutes of runtime. But everything comes together nicely, with moral object lessons of forgiveness, love and the pitfalls of greed and selfishness meeting in a flashpoint of singing and dancing asparagus.
Of course all the solid helpings of morality in the world won't keep kids watching and parents amused and luckily The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's delivers some trademark Veggie Tales humor. The songs are lively and fun, the one-liners score and that yellow, elderly, Scottish toad is one of the more genius things I've seen on DVD all year.
So if you haven't figured it out already, this disc earns a recommendation. If you're a fan of the Veggies, surely you have this bad boy on pre-order, but if you're new to the series and happen to be looking for a clever, heartfelt Bible-based slice of children's entertainment, you can't go wrong by picking this up.
Big Idea has put forth another great DVD. Technically, this is a strong release, featuring a colorful and vibrant 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a full 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Bonus features include commentary from the filmmakers, a brief making-of featurette, a very funny, abbreviated "veggie commentary" track, an art gallery with commentary, activities and interactive games, a sing-a-along and DVD-ROM content.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Idea
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