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Latest 'Veggie Tales' movie has appeal beyond its fan base

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The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

(G)

***(out of 5)

Starring

Larry the Cucumber as Elliot

Mr. Lunt

as Sedgewick

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Pa Grape

as George

Studio: Universal

Directed by:

Mike Nawrocki

By KEVIN CARR

Even though I have kids and now look at most family movies with them in mind, my first introduction to the "Veggie Tales" came from my sister, right after college.

She worked with a woman who let her borrow one of their videotapes, so she brought the tape home to show my family. While this was a thinly veiled attempt at witnessing to my sister on her co-worker's part, my family nonetheless enjoyed the show.

For those who don't know anything about the "Veggie Tales," it's a computer-generated kids' show with Christian overtones. However, unlike many Christian videos, it's not as heavy-handed on the religious themes.

Much of the charm of the Veggie Tales is that they don't hammer you over the head with prayer messages and the Buddy Christ. Instead, they tell humorous, irreverent stories that are anchored in a moral message.

Several years ago, the Veggie Tales hit the big screen with their first feature film, "Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie." I didn't see this one, but with the title alone, it was clear plenty of overt religion crept into the story.

Now, after the bankruptcy and reselling of the parent company, the Veggie Tales are back with a more mainstream film, "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything."

While the pirates were introduced in "Jonah," you don't have to see this first film to understand what's going on. The new film begins in the 1700s, with an evil pirate captain assaulting a ship at sea. We learn that the captain is the estranged brother of the king, and he is holding the prince hostage until he can take over the kingdom.

The princess escapes the pirate captain and uses her father's HelpSeeker to find someone to help her. Flash-forward to the present, where Elliot, Sedgewick and George (played by Larry the Cucumber, Mr. Lunt the gourd and Pa Grape) are working as cabin boys at a dinner theater. When they stumble across the HelpSeeker, they are transported back to the pirate days, where they must help the princess rescue her brother.

As a family film, "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" is an enjoyable experience. Even the littlest ones that I saw during the screening I attended were engrossed in the film. In a lot of ways, you just can't go wrong with CGI vegetables.

Like the rest of the Veggie Tales series, "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" was strongly marketed to their faith base. It will surely be a hit with the fans of the Veggie Tales series and the Christian crowd.

However, the film is definitely translatable to the mainstream, and the overt religious messages are toned down. While you might be able to figure out that the king represents god, it's not shoved down your throat.

As an adult, I found the film interesting and cute -- especially the parts with Sedgewick, who steals the show in most scenes -- but it does get a little bogged down in the middle. Sadly, one of the trademark characteristics of the series, their silly songs -- music videos of which can be seen in Chuck E. Cheese's around the country -- are sorely lacking in the film.

While there's adventure and clever gags (including a hilarious moment of evil cheese puffs attacking the gourd), I could have done with a little more silliness and some more songs like "The Hairbrush Song" and "Bellybutton."

Kevin Carr is an independent writer, journalist and filmmaker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

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