Most helpful critical review
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Not up to par, but worth buying anyway
on March 15, 2005
While the format is familiar and the subject matter the usual "Sunday morning values," the quality of the writing is just not of Big Idea's usual standards.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the first segment is a loose retelling of the Miriam/Moses story. It's a tad confusing as the horrors of the true story are kid-safed and the "Saturday morning fun" is worked in. Yes, the message is communicated fairly well, but to that end, the story actually gets in the way. And though Lisa Vischer's performance of Laura's song is admirable, there's a certain lack of passion in the performance, her exceptional vocal skills notwithstanding.
The second segment, "Larry Sings the Blues," is the weakest "break strain" to date. Sure, there have been some pretty silly "Silly Songs with Larry" segments, and some have been remarkably contrived, but this one is missing... passion. I usually think of the Larry segment as an opportunity for Kurt Heinecke to take center stage, and this time he tries the blues. Unfortunately, the central theme of the song, that Larry is just "too darned happy" to sing the blues, isn't terribly well communicated, confusing the viewer, and it's not Kurt's best effort to date. It's good, but not great.
The last segment, "Duke and the Great Pie War," suffers from the outset in that the narration vocals are very difficult to understand as they are sung in a muddy falsetto. Meanwhile, the words appear onscreen in the form of an illuminated text, but some kids will have a hard time with them either because they can't read or because they can't make out the Old English-style character set. To make matters worse, the plot is confusing and requires the introduction and other plot point explanations along the way. Excellent puns notwithstanding, because of the confused plot, the "Sunday morning value" is completely lost--or completely missing in action, even.
Last, but not least, the Bob and Larry "wrapper" is great... until the end when Larry actually introduces his previously-never-introduced brothers who then drag "What We Have Learned" through an overharmonized, dirge-like rendition that seemed never to end--even Bob looked somewhat bored. The brothers are a great idea and certainly open up some room for exploring the characters, but the song paints them as lethargic cukes.
All in all, I am disappointed. If I understand Big Idea's recent problems correctly, this is the first traditional VeggieTales production after the move to Tennessee. Though the core team (the Vischers, Nawrocki, Heinecke) has obviously moved with the production, I can't help but wonder if they have been so distracted by what was apparently a tumultuous time in Big Idea's life that this production took backseat to other concerns.
So... should you buy it? Despite my reservations and disappointment, the answer is, "Yes!" First, the level of technical accomplishment that this production represents is astounding. The rendering and artistry of the animations are outstanding and are worth the price of admission alone. Second, it will please and entertain your kids, though you might have to spend some time explaining what's going on and reinforce the lesson yourself. (You _are_ watching these with them, aren't you?) And last, but not least, Big Idea is one of the few companies I blindly support with my purchase dollar. "Why we do what we do," indeed! And without our purchases, there's certainly no chance for another, better production.