On demand

Streaming VeggieTales: It’s a Meaningful Life

It’s easy being green.

It’s easy being green.

The family is home for the evening. If you’re like me, that $40 a month cable fee was too much when you were adapting to the economic downturn. So you killed your cable. Now you’ve got few choices for the kiddies on free TV: Family Guy or whatever’s on PBS.

Well, $40 a month may have been too much, but $110 for a new Blu-Ray player wasn’t. And now, I’m streaming Netflix into my home over my internet connection. Netflix’ streaming capability cost $7.99 a month, which is even cheaper than regular visits to Redbox. Blu-Ray isn’t the only medium that can do it; you can also stream Netflix into your home on gaming consoles, DVRs and some HDTVs.

I decided to put my new technology to the test, and went to Netflix.com, Watch Instantly, Genres, Faith & Spirituality. Jackpot. There were more inspirational and spiritual movies than I could easily count, everything from religious and spiritual dramas, to documentaries, to Judaica, to mindfulness and prayer flicks. I went straight to new movies, and selected 2010’s VeggieTales: It’s a Meaningful Life.

Do you know about VeggieTales? VeggieTales are Bible-based cartoons. They’re often stories directly taken from the Bible, sometimes other fables—although all have a moral—sometimes directly borrowed from pop culture. The animation is computer-generated, and while I generally find this sort of saccharine fare a bit sweet for my palate, I found myself charmed by the little armless vegetables, the contemporary music, and even the fairly unsophisticated animation.

The 50-minute It’s a Meaningful Life owes a lot to It’s a Wonderful Life, the old Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie. In fact, the lead character, a cucumber, was named Stewart. Do they have to pay royalties on this sort of homage? Anyway, Stewart was a high school football player who missed the big play, got injured and didn’t go into pro football, while the guy who caused him to flub went on to be a big football star with notoriety and endorsements. Stewart regrets his life until a conductor on a magic train shows him what might have been.

The pictured DVD box gives away the topic: A lesson in being content. I’ll get on to the Christian content, but there were many themes that seemed as Buddhist as anything—not that there’s anything wrong with emphasizing where spiritual philosophies run parallel for a child’s lesson in tolerance, but I’m not absolutely sure the creators had this in mind. To be specific, Buddha said desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering, both of which seemed to be problems for Stewart.

The movie didn’t have any problems with an overabundance of subtlety, particularly at the end, when the recurring VeggieTales characters tell the viewers what they were supposed to have learned from the cartoon.

“We’re over here by Qwerty to talk about what we’ve learned today.” Qwerty the computer shows a Bible, while a jingle plays too quickly to transcribe or understand on a liminal level. “Stewart wished that his life had turned out different. He thought if he had only caught that football, his life would have been better, but Stewart learned that God had a plan for him that was more important than winning a football game. Stewart realized that everything in his life was meaningful, because God was working in his life, even when he didn’t see it.”

It was followed by a Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, which the cucumber and tomato read for the pre-literate.

It’s a Meaningful Life was a bit young for me, but I can see how families with a yen for quality, spirituality-based entertainment could find a friend for themselves and their children in streaming video. It’s not late, so I think I’ll check out Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat. What the heck, even if I fall asleep, I’ve already paid for the month.