It's way too obvious and far less imaginative than most VeggieTales adventures, but The Lord of the Beans still cooks up some smiles and laughs - and an uplifting biblical message - as the computer-generated vegetables star in a spoof of the blockbuster film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
The 27th episode of the best-selling VeggieTales series, released today, features Junior Asparagus as "Toto Baggypants" and Archibald Asparagus as his "Uncle Billboy," two "flobbits" - the VeggieTales equivalent of J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbits.
In the Tolkien tale, the Fellowship of the Ring is created to carry a powerful magical ring across Middle Earth to the only site where it can be destroyed. In the VeggieTales spoof, a group dubbed "the Fellowship of the Bean" goes on a journey through Center Earth to find the meaning of the special bean that Uncle Billboy has given to Toto.
The script becomes a cartoon combination of the writings of Tolkien and Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life as Ear-a-Corn (Lord of the Ring's ranger Aragorn), Leg-o-Lamb (elf Legolas), Randalf (wizard Gandalf), and other similarly named VeggieTales characters confront the evil "Lord Scaryman" and his henchmen, the Sporks (Saruman and his orcs).
The names and events are closely linked to the original Rings plot and characters, which is likely to amuse younger elementary-age children whether or not they've seen director Peter Jackson's phenomenal film trilogy.
But for those whose ages are in double digits, the literalism of coming up with the farcical names and plot parodies makes for relatively mundane material from the usually dependable VeggieTales staff.
Despite the drawbacks, The Lord of the Beans is wholesome entertainment made with sparklingly clear computer-generated animation. The musical interludes are amusing, and the DVD offers a wealth of extra features including a music video by Wyonna Judd singing the theme song, "It's About Love," and a sing-along with the guitar-playing "Elves."
The moral is that everyone has special talents, and they need to discover and use their God-given gifts, just as the VeggieTales characters searched for the meaning of the bean.
The 45-minute video is available on DVD for $14.99 and on VHS for $12.99. Check out www.bigidea.com for more information.
A new challenger to the VeggieTales dominance in the Christian children's video niche is The Roach Approach, a series of animated videos offering biblical messages and laughs for children.
In The Mane Event, old roach Grandpa Lou takes a small crew of Roach Rangers on a road trip and winds up inside a spider's lair. The turn of events gives Grandpa Lou an opportunity to tell the young roaches the biblical story of Daniel and the Lion's den.
In Don't Miss the Boat, the roaches go on vacation in Florida but are smacked by a hurricane, which inspires Grandpa Lou to tell the kids about Noah and his Ark.
The 30-minute DVD videos, which feature voice-overs by such Christian celebrities as T.D. Jakes, TobyMac (of dc Talk), and Nicole C. Mullen, have a list price of $11.98 and are available at most Christian bookstores or online at www.foxfaith.com.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the biggest names in entertainment, a billionaire who has millions of people around the world hanging on her every word via her television show, magazine, and other outlets.
Author Marcia Z. Nelson looks into the Oprah media empire and finds some consistent spiritual themes throughout, including forgiveness, generosity, and gratitude, in her new book The Gospel According to Oprah.
The new release joins a growing list of "The Gospel According To's ," including books on the spirituality of the Simpsons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Seuss, Peanuts, and Harry Potter.
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