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FIRST-PERSON: Veggies with a heart for kids

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Whose demographic is the most ignored at the cinema? The wee ones — the 3- to 6-year-olds who are just beginning to grasp the significance of ideas and ideals that spring forth from movies and TV shows. Why?

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that a different process is used to entertain tiny tots. It takes something quite different to gain and hold their attention. And what may seem nearly devoid of entertainment value to older brothers and sisters, to them bares a wealth of knowledge and diversion. Big Idea Productions understands how to reach those ignored by the major entertainment studios.

Big Idea is a family media company located in Lombard, Ill. Known for the computer-animated “VeggieTales” children’s video series, Big Idea is now branching out to the local cineplex. And what a joy it is to see something come to local movie theaters that not only aims at smaller children, but also contains not just moral life lessons, but also truisms derived from Scripture.

Big Idea’s first theatrical venture is called “Jonah — a VeggieTales Movie.” The action begins on a moonlit night when a van of singing Veggies encounters some unexpected trouble. Bob the Tomato and the Veggie kids find themselves at an old, rundown seafood joint where nothing is quite as it seems.

Here they encounter “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” the laziest bunch of scalawags and biggest root beer consumers to never sail the Seven Seas. As Bob and the kids wait for a tow truck, these curious pirates share a little story about a guy named Jonah. As their tale begins, we are transported to another time and place.

Now Jonah is kind of like a mailman — except his messages come straight from God. Jonah loves his job, until the day comes when he has to deliver a message to the people of Nineveh. You see, Jonah hates the Ninevites. They lie, steal, slap people with fishes, and are just all-around no-goodnicks.

Instead of carrying out his mission, Jonah turns and sets sail in the opposite direction onboard a pirate ship. In the hold of this vessel, he meets Khalil, a chatty carpet salesman who just happens to be a caterpillar and comic relief for what lies ahead.

With bright colors, lots of movement and catchy tunes (not all will be so fun for attending adults, but surprisingly, some are hummable even for us old folks), the film lovingly and entertainingly amuses that overlooked group of potential moviegoers.

Big Idea shows a caring compassion for preschoolers. There’s a gentility to their products, punctuated by a knowledge of how to gain the attention and trust of its littlest audience members. Understanding that the irresponsible use of popular media (TV, film, music) has had a profoundly negative impact on America’s moral and spiritual health, this is a company that centers biblical values in the plotlines and characters of their games, videos and, now, theatrical releases.

Indeed, Big Idea’s mission is to market a moral and spiritual fabric into all its stories.

That said, will adults be equally entertained when accompanying their moppets to Jonah? Well, no. At times it might even cause Mom or Dad to check their watches. But there is something fulfilling when you look down at a small child who is enraptured by something he is watching on the silver screen. Hearing them laugh or, better yet, sitting as quiet as a mouse as the narrative grabs their full attention, well, this should make this movie outing most satisfactory.

It’s a difficult time for parents. There’s a constant battle to protect guileless minds from cynical, often humanistic teachings that ignore God’s place in our daily lives. Impressionable minds are bombarded by negative visuals and sounds from the media every day. I honestly believe the products from Big Idea help counter that secular influence. While that may sound as if I have a vested interest in the company’s stock, I mention Big Idea’s direction because little ones have much to learn and this is a company that seems determined to do that while respecting the innocence of their main audience.

Jonah — a VeggieTales Movie opens in theatrical release Oct. 4 in more than 1,100 screens across the country.
Philip Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For more information about his service, go to www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright