Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Latest Veggie Tales is a little overdone


I have a confession to make and I’m afraid that it will offend Veggie Tales lovers at large, but it has to be said. I hate Junior Asparagus. There I said it and with only a little shame. I know that his character is supposed to be cute and all, but his voice is grating like nails on a chalkboard. No offense to Lisa Vischer, voice of said vegetable. I am sure that she is a lovely lady and when not talking like our little green friend, I am sure that her real voice sounds lovely as well. Lisa is also the wife of Phil Vischer, creator of Junior. Junior is a small veggie with big dreams. Many times, he is the only character with the voice of reason. But oh, that voice.

The best thing that can be said about Veggie Tales’ latest offering, The Princess and the Pop Star, is that Junior isn’t in it. The bad news is that Laura Carrot is. Although voiced by Keri Pisapia, she sounds just like him. (Heavy sigh.)

If you are unfamiliar with the franchise, here is a brief history. Since 1993, Big Idea has been bringing vegetables to life to the amusement of children and parents alike. The short stories told are usually tales from the Bible, reinterpretations of famous books or take offs of popular movies. They all feature songs and a good moral message or two. In the beginning, the computer animation technology was much simpler, so all the vegetables (and some fruits), were animated without arms or legs. Animation has much improved since then, but the vegetables are still lacking appendages. Poor things.

As you expect, Princess and the Popstar is a knock off of the famous, Prince and the Pauper story by Mark Twain only this version was written by another Mark,  Mark Steele. In place of the prince, we have a pop star, Hannah Banana (obviously patterned after Hannah Montana, A.K.A. Miley Cyrus, before her “Can’t Be Tamed” video.) Why a carrot is pretending to be a banana is never explained. 

The pauper of the story is a little farm girl, also a carrot, named, Princess Poppyseed. She lives with her progressive family (her mother is a carrot, but her father is a cucumber) and her many siblings. Her family grow apple pie trees, (which hints of cannibalism if you think it through) and milk cows. How does a carrot milk a cow without hands? The magic of animation.

Hannah is sad and lonely with no siblings. She travels a lot and doesn’t have any close friends. Princess is sick of her sisters and little brother. It’s a classic case of the grass looking greener on the other side of the fence. The two meet by chance at a playground and discover how much they look like each other. They borrow each other’s clothes and fix their hair to look like the other and the big switcheroo happens. At first, the two girls are thrilled with their new lives, but of course, that comes to an end and the two have to come back to the real lives. A nice touch to this story though is the while the Hannah is happy to come back to show business, Princess doesn’t want to give it up.

Now, despite what I said earlier, I am a big Veggie Tales fan, but this new story lacks some of the creative wit of the series. The original crew knew how to tell a children’s story with humor that their parents’ could appreciate. This story’s humor is more silly than creative. The episode is still hosted by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, so that’s good. The main story has some nice songs, but they all sound alike. Generally, boys and girls alike enjoy the Tales, but this particular one may be a bit “too girly” for some boys. Writer Steele tries to throw in a little dramatic tension near the ending, but it falls flat. A nice surprise was the “silly song” that takes place between acts one a two. Instead of “A Silly Song with Larry,” Archibald Asparagus decides to give a lesson on fashion throughout the ages with the song, “Astonishing Wigs!” with Larry making an appearance at the end saying, “And you think I’m silly.”
Bottom line, if your kids love these stories, they will probably like this one too. It’s not bad by a long shot, but it isn’t up to par with some the best like, “Rack, Shack and Benny” and “Josh and the Big Wall.”


     

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