May 2007
ENTERTAINMENT REVIEWS

FOR KIDS

VeggieTales: Moe and the Big Exit
VeggieTales’ Larry the Cucumber is back – this time as Moe, a cowboy living it up in Dodgeball City, while his kinfolk are slaving away digging the Grand Canyon. Moe is instructed to approach the mayor and ask him to free his people. The mayor refuses and trouble strikes as Moe wrestles with his responsibility.

Created as a Western parallel to the Exodus, Moe and the Big Exit is a 52-minute lesson in following directions. Like all other VeggieTales episodes, it contains the familiar vegetable faces, toe-tapping tunes and a new silly song music video. It is now available on DVD complete with bonus features including games, a sing-a-long, a read-a-long, and a note to parents.

It has the wholesomeness of all other VeggieTales products, as well as a Scripture lesson that is used to apply the moral of the story to real life. While the episode is clean, with the exception of a baby burping, a husband and wife kissing and a posse of vegetables rapping (elements that may be of concern to some parents), the whole approach to the Biblical parallel raises some questions.

While the creators intend to remain true to the Bible story, it doesn’t come across that way. For example, a river turns into tomato juice to represent the Nile River turning to blood. The plague of the firstborn deaths is depicted by baby baskets floating down a river. There is no crossing of the Red Sea, rather Moe and his followers cross Death Valley by way of a snow cloud that cools the severe heat but disappears when the enemy tries to cross.

Although the snow-covered crossing is clever, it doesn’t tell the truth about Moses, thus leaving children confused over what is real and what is not. Moe and the Big Exit mixes too much fantasy with reality. Biblical truth when presented in a make-believe world can distort the message, and unfortunately that’s what happens in Moe and the Big Exit.  

Moe and the Big Exit is the newest episode in the VeggieTales’ collection and is available on DVD.

McGee and Me!
The award-winning McGee and Me! series is back as a four-disc DVD collection with 12 complete mini-movies for six hours of live action and animation.

The McGee and Me! episodes follow the life of kid cartoonist Nick and his animated friend McGee who pops up when there’s a lesson to be learned. Children enjoy the excitement while parents appreciate the clear Biblical values.

In addition to the episodes, the DVD collection contains bonus features and an 18-page discussion guide.

Nothing objectionable about it, the McGee and Me! series is wholesome entertainment that will foster Biblical conversation among the whole family.

The collection is available at www.afastore.net.

The Boy Who Faced His Giant
Paperbag Theatre offers a wacky retelling of David and Goliath that involves music and, oddly enough, brown paper bags.

The Boy Who Faced His Giant is primarily a musical journey into this well-known Bible Story. It is a two-disc collection of 70 of the most beloved Christian songs and hymns for children. Various children’s choirs perform such favorites as “This Little Light of Mine,” “God is So Good,” and “Father Abraham.”

The two-disc collection also includes a bonus DVD by the same title. It’s a low-budget 12-minute episode that is intended to help children apply the story of David and Goliath to their own lives. But the strangest part is that the characters are costumed paper bag puppets.

A few elements to be aware of: In certain parts, the comical approach makes light of the actual Biblical account. In the opening scene, the gym teacher says, “Boys, don’t forget your cups.” A student then asks, “What is a cup?” No answer is given. The main character says a prayer in which he asks God to burn down the school so he doesn’t have to face his fear. He then has a dream about angels pouring gas on the school as instructed by God. The custodial character sings a song about Spanish ladies.

The mini-movie is weak, but the quality of the product lies in the music CDs.

Little Robots: Reach for the Sky
From Fox Home Entertainment come the mechanical misadventures of the Little Robots – 11 loveable misfits who have built a metal world for themselves in the middle of a junk pile. They’re imaginative, creative, wacky and somewhat educational.

Little Robots is a top-rated animated series on the BBC where it is has a devoted fan base of preschool boys. Little Robots: Reach for the Sky contains four new 11-minute episodes of stop-motion animation. Some episodes positively address determination, encouragement and sharing while others accept the idea of deceit and fail to resolve the struggles of conceit. One episode contains the word “gosh.”

The episodes will whisk children away into an imaginary world of fun, but do not expect any faith-based content.

Little Robots: Reach for the Sky is available April 3 on DVD.

Life at the Pond: The Little Things
Bill the Duck, Methuselah the Alligator and Tony the Frog help their friend, Floyd the Turtle, learn a lesson in responsibility in a new DVD release from the Life at the Pond series.

The 30-minute episode is packed with bright colors, friendly creatures, catchy songs and a good moral lesson. Scripture is applied to the lesson, and children are also introduced to the concept of moderation as related to overeating and excessive video game playing.

Some of the vocabulary is advanced for youngsters, although several of the words such as moderation, claustrophobic, and hypothetical are defined. Floyd is seen jumping on his bed, and a lyrical reference to the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus is made. While there could have been more resolved in the end, all in all, The Little Things is a fun and wholesome way to learn the importance of responsibility.

The DVD includes such bonus features as music videos, trailers, two radio episodes and other extras.   

Life at the Pond is inspired by the radio program, The Pond, which airs Saturday mornings on American Family Radio and can be heard online at www.afrkidzradio.com.

FOR GROWN-UPS

The Moment After 2: The Awakening
In this end-times thriller, the Global Alliance is set on ruling the earth at the beginning of the Tribulation. Who can people trust? Religious fanatics? Government? A quasi mini-militia of ragtag misfits?

Former FBI agent Adam Riley, played by David A.R. White (Mercy Streets, The Visitation), is the protagonist of The Moment After 2: The Awakening. Riley was on death row in an unjust incarceration, but he escapes as he and two other prisoners are being transported for execution.

In the first thread of the story line, Riley is able to locate Jacob Krause, an old friend and spiritual mentor. Krause is leader of The Way, a remnant of Christians struggling to survive government persecution during the Tribulation.

A second thread of the story follows Global Alliance Commander Fredericks kidnapping Charles Baker’s wife to force Baker to track down Riley and other Christians. Ironically, Baker is Riley’s former FBI partner.

Meanwhile, another storyline focuses on the AWOL  “Captain” Jackson, who leads an enigmatic small band of militiamen. They are tracking The Way for their own vague self-interests.

Finally, a fourth thread is woven into the intrigue through Carissa, Riley’s former love interest, who is now a part of The Way. The closing scene appears to resolve the battle between good and evil once and for all – but watch out for the surprise ending.

The film earns above average marks on every count – plot, production, acting and suspense. There are no language problems, but graphic violence, though limited, merits parental guidance for younger viewers. The Signal Hill Pictures production was released on DVD in early March.

Hidden Secrets
Tension, intrigue, strong characters and strong faith drive the story in Hidden Secrets from Pure Flix Entertainment. The movie, now available on DVD, will be showing on 200 screens in 26 cities across the country for one night only on April 30.

 Nine friends reunite at the funeral of their hometown hero, each one harboring his/her own secrets. But the death of Chris, a committed Christian, makes them rethink where their lives are headed.

While solid acting is the film’s strongest element, it opens with a startling scene hinting at suicide – probably too strong for young children. Believable character portrayals move the story forward, and dialogue deals with various issues, including sexual abstinence, abortion and homosexuality. Yet there is no foul language and the issues are handled with restraint. The Gospel message is clear and straightforward.

Additional information, theater locations and ticket purchases are available at www.hiddensecrets-themovie.com.