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Mildly Entertaining, Completely Irrelevant
on December 12, 2011
I am a big fan of having family Christmas movie time. However, if you are looking for entertainment value, skip this and grab you a copy of Elf, Charlie Brown Christmas, or The Grinch. This is not nearly so artful nor creative as VeggieTales has been in the past. And ultimately, I'd skip it.
If movies that are just sort of thrown together a la a fifth grader's short story for English class bother you because of poor writing, overdone plot elements, contrived and clunky conflict and resolution, and unlikable/unsympathetic characters, you'll also want to skip this one. It's kind of a kids' version of a cheesy Lifetime movie with old 80s sitcom stars from supporting roles.
And if you look to VeggieTales as an aide in teaching your children about the Bible and hope to find this as a way to relate to them the true meaning of Christmas, you're REALLY going to want to skip it--
I just watched this for the second time with two of my children (8 and 5) and asked them what they thought it was about. They got it right for the most part, they said it's about a little boy who thinks his parents have died. He's really sad and lost for a while and gets in with an odd (the kids seem confused about their character) crowd but then eventually finds his parents at the end. That about sums it up. Junior plays two characters, the Drummer Boy in the story set at the time of Christ's birth, and himself in the story set in modern times. The character from the part set in modern day is, in a word, smarmy. The character of the Drummer Boy is an Anakin Skywalker of sorts who, while not as dark as the future Darth Vader, is completely consumed by the death of his parents. First of all, why do so many writers of children's stories decide that one or both parents should be missing? It is not only overdone, it is a weak plot device. The stakes need not be so high, and relying on such a worn out and overly dramatic scenario seems lazy. Second of all, the change in the Drummer Boy is intended, upon close examination (and really because we are told rather than shown), to come when he sees Jesus. However, the Drummer Boy sees Jesus almost instantly before he is reunited with his parents, so the whole reason for the change in him is lost on children. They think the Drummer Boy is happy now because he has found his parents, not because he has found his Savior. Honestly, it's only because I know that Jesus is the Savior that I even inferred that message. It's debatable that it's even there.
Shouldn't the point of a VeggieTales Christmas movie set at the birth of Christ BE the birth of Christ? There are many of us out there who think that the quality of VeggieTales has gone down significantly since the departure of Phil Vischer as CEO in 2003. The messages are watered down and the artistic and creative quality has certainly suffered. A friend asked me recently why I still even let my children watch VeggieTales. My answer to that is that they are better than a whole lot of the other things out there that they could be watching. On the other hand, there are also a whole lot of things out there that would be more educational! It used to be that VeggieTales communicated the stories of the Bible in an accessible way for children. It was an aide in teaching them what we want them to learn about God and his people. This movie does not do that. There is nothing in it that shows children how the birth of Christ changes anything, much less everything! What a missed opportunity for Big Idea! If you are looking for something new this Christmas that helps teach children (and remind us all) what Christmas is all about, grab you a copy of Song of the Stars, Sally Lloyd-Jones' new book that is beautifully and artfully written to help us share the story of how the long-expected birth of our Savior changed the world.