While VeggieTales: Lord of the Beans is not my thing, I can certainly see how it would connect with very small children. Parents may also throw Phil Vischer and company some appreciation for the positive messages his bunch tries to present in each VeggieTales special, but something about Vischer and crew’s latest doesn’t feel right. For one, it’s a parody — and a rather faithful one — to LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring. While it’s fine to parody, I think VeggieTales misses the point with their chosen subject matter. True, Lord of the Rings is a very popular series, but to think the age group this is aimed at is familiar enough with the material to appreciate the parallels is ridiculous.
I’m not saying kids in general are unfamiliar with LOTR, or that they haven’t seen it. I’m saying pre-schoolers, who will certainly get the most out of Lord of the Beans are most likely clueless to the material from which this special strives to mine most of its humor. You could say the creators made it a parody for the adults’ sake — and I will admit that was probably most of their intention. But again, Lord of the Beans fails because the humor never rises above a three-year old’s mentality. And let’s face it, at that age, all you’ll probably find funny about VeggieTales is the first appearance of a talking cucumber melon with large eyes.
Watching it all, I couldn’t help but think three-year olds will get bored in the nearly one-hour timeframe with nothing beyond the colors and the first appearance of the characters to recommend what they’re watching, while adults will split attention between their child’s wandering eyes, and the idea that same child could write something equally intelligent. But I still can’t figure out that purple dinosaur’s everlasting appeal, so what do I know about what kids like?
For all the feature’s weaknesses, I can’t fault the animation. The VeggieTales folks certainly know how to bring their renderings to life. The lighting people and the computer gurus deserve an enormous round of applause for turning the beautiful black-and-white drawings into lush three-dimensional works of art. The purples and greens and yellows blast off the screen and lend much to the art of mesmerizing children into staying still and quiet just a second or two longer than they probably should. This is presented in 1.33:1, but rest assured, you’re getting a beautiful picture that drains every last drop of vibrancy out of the image.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 rocks out and will rattle your little loved one’s gourd… from every section of the room. Dialogue comes through with every bit as much verve as the nice little background attentions to detail the creators paid when rendering their animated mystical world. The whistling winds of a blizzard, the dynamic thump of battle… all play through with strength and consistency. Also available in a less dynamic, but equally balanced Dolby Digital Stereo presentation.
Once again, Vischer and company deliver on the bonus materials. There is plenty beyond the feature to recommend this disc for your little ones, most of all the fascinating how-to-draw section, where the artists do a nice hands-on piece that will whet young appetites for drawing, if any are creatively inspired. In addition to this, we get an interview with Wynonna, her “It’s About Love” music video, some behind the scenes materials including but not limited to the “Making-Of” Featurette, and a mildly entertaining Veggie Commentary. The Silly Songs with Elves also earned a chuckle or two. Rounding things out, the package contains a trivia game, DVD game, a Sing Along, a Family Activity, and a Cookie Recipe.
Chances are entirely possible I have forgotten what it’s like to be a three-year old. If so, my apologies… I just didn’t care for this outing. However, kids can learn to like anything if it’s thrown at them enough. That unavoidable fact of children’s entertainment — and the treasure trove of extras included — save this disc from being a pass. If you end up purchasing, it will probably win your child’s heart. It just might take a little longer than usual.