This will be a quickie poll: just two options! (I only have Christmas romances, so I might do a Christmas-in-July bit.)
But for now:
Edge of Darkness, by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips, the fourth and final part of the Michael Murphy saga.
I, Saul, by Jerry Jenkins with help from James MacDonald
(If you ever listen to Christian radio, you’ve probably heard MacDonald and his super-catchy theme song…WALK WALK IN THE WORK WALK IN THE WORD WALK WALK IN THE WORD THIS IS THE WAAAAAYYYYYY!!!)
Since we only have two options, just leave a comment with your vote!
Man, am I behind on this one, guys. Sorry.
Okay, so to recap: Priest Dad found some apparently interesting evidence on a tape that already basically proves John, if not innocent, at least not entirely guilty. And Priest Dad was then Killed for Knowing Too Much before he could actually tell John.
btw, in watching this scene again, I am struck by another level of incompetence of the conspirators. They shoot Priest Dad in the head and then steal his computer. Why not give him one of those movie drugs that makes it look like you’ve had a heart attack or otherwise died of natural causes? Again, SHOOTING SOMEONE IN THE HEAD only makes it look more and more like John is being set up.
At the Hotel Blue, Slimy Brad Stine has squealed to the FBI or whatever, and they’re fitting him with a wire. Why they’re doing this, I don’t know, since now that they (ostensibly) know where John is, they could just ARREST HIM, but whatevs.
(Slimy Brad Stine swats at a fly then, when he misses, holds his fists up at it, boxer-style. This marks the only time I have ever seen Brad Stine do anything remotely amusing.)
The FBI guys are actually a little suspicious of him. Partly, I assume, because he’s Slimy Brad Stine, and so who WOULDN’T be suspicious of him, and partly because Slimy Brad Stine is kinda a dick to people just trying to do their jobs.
Back at the
ranch church, Joh reveals the death of Priest Dad to one of the junior priests. Despite saying he was “executed,” Junior Priest seems far more interested in the fact that Priest Dad was John’s dad than in the fact that Priest Dad is a) dead and b) by “execution.”
(I mean, in a way, I can’t really blame Junior Priest: I was assuming that Priest Dad was a retired priest. But now it seems that John is the secret, shameful son of a priest. Which raises a bunch of interesting questions, including how a priest’s secret son came to be the head of a RTC megachurchcorp.)
Meanwhile, at yet another shadowy meeting, complete with Evil Music, Senator X-Men is staring in front of a SUMAC sign (what the hell does that stand for, anyway?), rejoicing in the vague bill. And just in case we weren’t sure that he is evil, he uses the word “evolution” (though in a non-science-y way) and then says …DUN DUN DUN…
“This is no longer a Christian nation. In fact, it never has been.”
Hey, I agree! And I suppose that only goes to prove how evil we are.
Then he gets a standing ovation for invoking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his own dream of a coming together of religions, just like people of different skin colors have come together. Doesn’t sound so bad to me, but then we see that John is in the audience (WHY ARE YOU THERE, YOU IDIOT???), reacting as though Senator X-Men had just led the call to evict all orphanages and kick all puppies.
Now wearing priest garb and clutching a rosary (yeah, I bet the RTC crowd just loved that part), John heads out to Junior Priest’s Volvo, and they speed off. Okay, tell me again WHY John needed to go to this thing in the first place.
Then John goes to confront Senator X-Men at his sauna (???), having changed out of the priest garb, but still clutching the rosary and now, a gun. He interrogates Senator X-Men, who bizarrely reveals that the bill is awesome not so much because of the all faiths coming together (though there IS that), but because now he’ll have the “oversight” to hunt down religious terrorists in mosques and temples and stuff.
This bill just gets weirder and weirder.
Senator X-Men calls the death of the girl and the ruining of John’s life “collateral damage,” and then bizarrely seems to start buying his own bullshit, calling John a “sexual predator.” And yes, though we have one of those in the White House now, that seems to be one of the sins John didn’t commit. So, WTF?
John then reveals that he has been taping the whole conversation (duh), and clocks Senator X-Men with the gun instead of shooting him.
And then he goes to the police and everything is cleared up.
HA. Yeah, right.
John spies on his daughter at school for a few minutes, then we cut to YET ANOTHER shadowy meeting, this time with the Truth squad, led by Slimy Brad Stine, at least until John crashes the meeting. Now, this is supposed to be a badass moment for him, as he calls to account the festering corruption in his own organization, but instead he just comes across as a homeless-looking crazy guy, threatening his former coworkers with a gun and blathering on about “tax money, blood money,” getting angrier and more hysterical by the second instead of calmer and more rational. Al does his best to talk down the raping, murdering, gun-wielding lunatic in front of them all. But it is all for naught, as John rants on about how he (yep, all alone), built up the organization, only to find them all now “in bed with the government.” Slimy Brad Stine is apparently no fool, and texts for help. John lectures them about Jesus for a minute, then tosses some bills in the air to symbolize their collective greed, then ditches his gun and fucks off, mere paces ahead of the FBI guys and gas who are now storming his little compound.
Junior Priest once again serves as chauffeur, until their are t-boned by an FBI agent. And it is now that the movie decides to use a special effect, slowing to bullet-time as the agent shoots and (I think) wings John. But a Volvo can take anything, and Junior Priest speeds off, though not before the agent wings John yet again.
(Hilariously, the Volvo speeds off, but almost immediately slows two seconds before the scene ends. I think the driver wasn’t told to speed, yanno, farther away, or the editor didn’t end the shot soon enough. Either way, it looks really clumsy.)
Junior Priest heads back into the church to upload the video of Senator X-Men sorta-confessing, and John drives off in the Volvo.
Then some guy, I think on the President’s orders, goes to Senator X-Men’s house and shoots him dead.
Then John’s Volvo breaks down (?????) and he runs into the woods with some bad guys hot on his trail. Why John doesn’t just TURN HIMSELF IN at this point, I have no idea, since the video of Senator X-Men’s “confession” is now on all the TV stations. But it turns out the bad guys are actually bad Secret Service guys, and they get into a shoot-out with the good guy FB agents. It all ends with John shot yet again, thinking about his daughter and flashing back yet again to that morning with MonicaMelissa in the rocking chair, which I guess is indeed a flashback to him coming off a bender. Not that I care.
He calls home for a dying conversation, and his daughter seems remarkably incurious as to why Daddy hasn’t been home in like, four days. And then John apologizes to MonicaMelissa for “shutting you out,” which might have more emotional resonance if we had ever seen these two characters interact with each other for more than thirty seconds, total.
All is interrupted when the bad Secret Service guy takes hostage a female FBI agent. Serves her right for serving in the FBI while simultaneously having ladyparts. Naturally, John, shot three times and suffering from blood loss, finds a gun and shoots the bad Secret Service agent, freeing the little lady. That’ll teach her to be a girl!
Anyway, John is totes fine and soon heads back to work. But he is there only to say “fuck all y’all” and get his Bible from his office and peace out. Which actually seems kinda rude. I mean, it wasn’t these guys who conspired to frame him for rape and murder. Al, especially, tried to stand by him and help him. Yeah, they supported the Evil Bill, but they certainly didn’t know how evil it was. But hey, ideological purity, right?
President Why Are We Acting Like He’s Innocent introduces John at a press conference, acting like they’re old buddies, so are we just supposed to forget that the Prez was all for framing John before he wasn’t? Guess it’s good to be the king.
I’m so confused right now.
President Just Fine with Framing Someone for Murder advises John to be “nice now, real nice.”
So John steps to the podium and…
Yep, it just ends there. John’s speech was too exciting for words, I guess.
Not exactly an American President moment.
And now I’m sad. Damn, but this movie was prescient. “He’s only interested in two things: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.”
On a lighter note, hell, this isn’t even a Team America moment.
Now, this whole movie raises endless questions about who knew what, when, and exactly how stupid the filmmakers think we are, but really, my main question is: Where is John’s growth? Remember, this is the guy who gave an innocent gas station attendant the “don’t you know who I am” treatment, and who, even after getting clean and sober, continued to neglect his wife and daughter, and whose besetting sin appears to be pride, and after his whole ordeal, which saw his life wrecked before his eyes and his father murdered, all he learns is…he was right all along? The whole world was indeed against him and he truly is the only Real, True Christian?
Yanno, I expected the usual silliness of an overblown RTC movie that takes itself way, way too seriously. But I did not expect this to be so friggin’ STUPID.
The Penniless Princess was a more cohesive story.
So, as John luckily drives away from his surveilled home, to do…whatever he wants to do now, we cut to a bit later that night, when the board of his ministry gets together to talk about the situation. Now, I’m sure the filmmakers did not intend this to seem like an evil and clandestine meeting when they shot it in such low light, with the little table lamps illuminating the men from below to make them look slightly sinister…but that’s the effect.
HOWEVER, we see that one of the members of the board is Dean Stockwell. So, for me, this movie has just become 3000% more awesome, because Dean Stockwell is one of my very favorite actors of all time. I’ve loved him ever since I was a kid and watched him portray Admiral Al Calavicci on Quantum Leap. But he’s awesome in anything, including when he’s playing the most evil of Cylons or when he’s running a home for wayward teenage girls who are going to sell their babies.
Anyway, he’s the voice of reason here, finding the whole meeting kinda pointless until they can hear John’s side of the story. Which seems quite optimistic of him. Slimy Brad Stine pulls a Trump, standing up and yammering on and saying nothing of substance, mildly implying John’s guilt. Al looks displeased.
Then Slimy Brad Stine starts talking about the evil legislation, that he wants everyone in the room to sign. Um, why??? Why would a board of ministers even need to sign some legislation that hasn’t even passed yet?
(Still, we learn a tiny bit more about the evil legislation: that it has “earmarks” for compliant ministers and “a very generous tax advantage package,” though I don’t see how a church can have a bigger tax advantage than the one they already have, which is: they don’t have to pay them.)
Meanwhile, John heads back to the scene of the crime. I note again that this is the THIRD thing he chosen to do with his time, wad of bills, and car. Before exiting said car, he pauses to read the Bible and have a cry. Interestingly, he prays,
“If I have done this, if there is any iniquity in my hands, let my enemy pursue me and overtake me.”
IF? That’s bizarre. We have seen that John has a few flashes of what happened; that is, of the girl crawling all over him snapping pictures. But I still can’t imagine there is anything that would suggest to John that he is in any way responsible for what happened. He knows he stopped his car and saw a girl and was then knocked out, yes? There’s nothing that implies that John might think he went on a bender that he doesn’t remember or anything. Odd.
Then, right there at the scene of the crime, he decides to go to sleep in his car. Look, dude, when I suggested that, I didn’t suggest you do it AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.
He has a dream (or something) where he wakes up shaking and calling for MonicaMelissa. She’s facing away from him, sitting in a chair, so I kinda think it’s either a flashback to when his daughter was just born, and/or to him coming off a bender. I dunno, and I don’t think it really matters.
He wakes up, still at the scene of the crime, which includes a trailer with a bunch of stoned hippies living in it or something. I dunno, I’m pretty square.
Still though, seems short-sighted of the villains to do their bad deed right in front of the hippies’ trailer home…
And I am vindicated when it turns out to be one of the hippies who recorded the whole incident. Luther buys a copy of the recording off the hippie chick without batting an eye.
Then bizarrely, the FBI wants to have a talk with Slimy Brad Stine. Then then, Senator X-Men has a meeting in his fancy house about the legislation, and the priest crashes it, posing as a different priest who was actually invited. Whatever, I don’t see the point.
So John calls the priest, who I guess must also have given him a burner phone:
“I have it, Dad. I’m going to the police.”
This is the first I’ve heard of this! What kind of crazy shit you trying to pull, movie?
The priest is John’s father? The Catholic priest is RTC preacher John Luthor’s father???
Holy weird fucked-up-ness, Batman!
Okay, okay, I know some priests become priests later in life, even after raising families of their own. Hell, I listened to a Catholic radio show one time where they were bemoaning the lack of men who want to join the priesthood these days, and were saying that some widowed older men join the priesthood. Hell, they made it sound almost like a retirement option. But I’m sorry, this is just WEIRD.
And the weirdness of the whole situation aside, why did John think it was safe to go to his dad after he became a fugitive? If they had his own house and his wife under surveillance, wouldn’t they do the same for his father?
Ah well, guess not.
Anyway, Priest Dad actually advises John not to go to the police. AGAIN. Because “you’re in their way.” They meet up, and Priest Dad shows John a really bad photo of Senator X-Men and the girl, and tells a convoluted and nonsensical story about the girl being adopted by some lady only three days ago.
Priest Dad also expositions that Senator X-Men is the Senate Majority Leader, which again raises the question of why the hell they need some TV preacher’s support to pass any legislation. Priest Dad then ties it all to evil and persecution:
“…it’s what [Senator X-Men’s] a part of, the people he’s associated with, what SUMAC is trying to do, what this legislation is bound to do, the results. … You ask the people in this country, round here, about the persecution of Christians, most times people will just smile and say, ‘No such thing. Not here, can’t happen.'”
Um, okay. Look, dude, they’re not doing this to John because he’s RTC and they’re just mean ole atheists. They’re doing it because they inexplicably need his support for their stupid bill. It’s a plot device, not persecution.
Anyway, Priest Dad once again does not offer John sanctuary in his church, but instead has gotten him a hotel room (this despite the fact that ten seconds later he says, “the eyes of the world are on you.”)
But before going to his hotel room, John finds and confronts Slimy Brad Stine. He pulls a whole we’re-still-friends fakeout, giving him a note to give to MonicaMelissa. All the note says is “Hotel Blue, 717 Central Ave 90125.” Then John fucks off.
(Now, I don’t know if this is supposed to be a clue or what, but the Hotel Blue at 717 Central Ave. is actually a real place in New Mexico. But the area code is wrong. In fact, 90125 is a Yes album. Whether this is a mistake, or a code between the couple will be interesting to see.)
Next we know, Senator X-Men is getting a late-night call from the President, who tells him a ridiculous yet folksy and threatening tale about when he was a lil boy down in the Deep South, son, and once kilt him a rattler with his bare dadgum hands. This all leads to the revelation that the President is in on the whole John mess, or at least was aware of it. The Prez then says he washes his hands of the whole thing, which it seems a bit late for. Then again, we currently have an untouchable “president,” so what do I know?
John takes a refreshing dip in the hotel pool, because I guess he doesn’t have anything better to do with his time, while Priest Dad watches the recording of John being set up and the girl being murdered. Priest Dad leaves a message on John’s phone, because “I think I’ve found something here.” Of course, he doesn’t give any details, and a good thing too, because then there wouldn’t be any suspense created when two bad guys murder Priest Dad ten seconds later!!
Okay, so this is your standard conspiracy movie he-was-killed-for-knowing-too-much bit, but this is a conspiracy that the conspirators are still trying to pull off. So it seems pretty counterproductive to kill the victim’s own father. That just makes John look victimized. Why not just overpower the priest, take and destroy the recording, and let Priest Dad look like a raving loon who would say anything to save his son?
Slightly later that night, John bursts into Priest Dad’s room as though expecting something awful, though there is no reason he should. This leads to John’s crisis of faith moment, where he rails at God (“Are you not true to your name?!“).
Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t last.
Until next time!
So I can tell this is going to be an interesting one right off the bat, because COMMENTS:
Gram Pol said:
“I hate to say it but I’m going to go easy on John for running away at the end. I mean, he did just suffer head trauma severe enough to render him unconscious for a good stretch of time.”
So this is a good point. Having had a Grade III concussion myself, I give John credit for being able to run at all. Granted, he only makes it a few hundred yards before collapsing again, and he does not stop when he hears sirens, which is still kinda odd. I mean, as far as John knows, he is the victim of a strange sort of carjacking. He has no reason to suspect that any kind of political plot or lies are involved. So why not run right TO the police? “Hey, I was knocked out and my car was stolen!”
Oh well. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for that, but not for what happens after. John collapses again, and doesn’t wake until broad daylight the next morning. (Meaning that the bad guys have had a good eight hours to get their story out there, but John doesn’t know that.)
Also, the cops who were rushing to the scene didn’t find him? They didn’t think to sweep a perimeter of even a couple hundred yards?
Anyway, John wakes up and almost immediately finds a gas station. The decrepit old pay phone outside is long gone, so he heads inside. He asks to use the men’s room (not the phone???) and the attendant tells him it’s for paying customers only. Nothing daunted, John proceeds to drink some soda from the machine (nice!) and splash some water on his face from the little bar sink.
And then he STILL doesn’t ask to use the phone!
Now, something weird starts to happen, and this is just such a good example of RTC movies not understanding how normal people think and talk. The attendant, and several others, act as though John is a homeless guy. Like, NO, man, you gotta pay to use the restroom. Except John does not look at all like a homeless person right now. He looks like a person who has been attacked or had an accident. He’s wearing business clothes, only slightly rumpled, and has blood splattered down the side of his face. Yet nobody seems the slightest bit concerned about this.
Then John ramps up his asshole rating by asking the attendant, “Don’t you know who I am?”
Oh yeah, John, I guess TV preachers get all the free soda they want, but us regular peons can just BUY some, right?
“No idea,” answers the attendant. This stops John dead in his tracks. Seriously, he looks deeply emotionally pained that this random woman doesn’t know him by sight. So, he just heads out. Again, WITHOUT ASKING TO USE THE PHONE.
Now, if this was any other movie, this would all be signs of John’s hubris, and we would be confident that by story’s end, he would have a bit more perspective.
But for now, John wanders onto the road, and IMMEDIATELY a van pulls up. It has a SUMAC bumper sticker (the same SUMAC featured on the signs of some of the protesters from Part 1), and a bunch of religious symbols like you see on a COEXIST bumper sticker. The driver, a woman with “Helping Hands,” also bizarrely thinks he’s homeless, and offers him water and doughnuts. Seeing not one, but TWO crosses around her neck, I guess John assumes she’s one of the good ones, because her phone is deemed good enough for his precious self. John calls his wife (not 911???), and Monica fills him in on what’s been happening: the police are at the house, his “relapse” involving drug possession and killing a young girl is all over the news, and Monica in fact cautions him against coming home, even though he has no wallet, no phone, and no car.
Um, okay? WTH, movie? As they said in The Fugitive, “running only makes you look guilty.” And again, Richard Kimble had the very good excuse that he had already been convicted of the crime. The crime here isn’t even ten hours old, so why not hoof it back home and get in a hospital, take a drug test, take a polygraph, do everything possible to prove your innocence and try to get the real killer(s)???
But instead they just hang up, and John doesn’t even say “I love you” or even “goodbye.” Nice guy.
Meanwhile, Senator X-Men is playing the whole my-heart-goes-out-to-his-family-but-justice-must-be-served card like a pro. And the Helping Hands lady, who I guess has nothing better to do, drops John off at a Catholic church (????), where he meets up with an old priest friend.
The priest friend of course believes in John’s innocence, and lets John in on the whole conspiracy business. Okay, he actually has no idea who is doing this, only why:
“…by the grace of God, you were able to bring yourself up from the depths of degradation and form a wonderful ministry that has spoken the truth to millions of people. Now, those who believe in nothing must bring you down…”
Let that be a lesson to all Christians. Better your life, and atheists will try to ruin it. Those MONSTERS!
Yeah, bet you never guessed that all this would be blamed on the god-free.
The priest, like John’s wife, convinces him not to turn himself in, because “I think you know how that will turn out.”
Yeah, those evil atheist cops and atheist lawyers and judges and atheist polygraphs!
So instead, they pick Plan B: “prove the truth.”
Wouldn’t a big part of proving the truth be showing your injuries from being attacked and framed, you idiot??!!?!
Nope, proving the truth begins with John taking a shower and washing away as much physical evidence as possible. Then the priest gives him a wad of cash and a change of clothes and a car. Thus equipped, John immediately sets off on his mission…
TO FIND A HOTEL!!!
Seriously, movie? SERIOUSLY???
Look, if John needs sleep so badly, sleep at the damned church. Or if you have to go somewhere immediately (though it’s very clear he feels no pressing need to do so), then sleep in the damned car. But don’t go to a hotel with the news of your fugitive-ness being broadcast on the lobby TV, try to bribe your way into a room, then act surprised when things go south.
Indeed, the young girl manning the front desk is immediately suspicious of this man with open wounds on his face, wearing sunglasses at night (so he can, so he can keep track of the visions in his eyes). Like a good Christian, he tries to bribe her with a $100 bill. She pulls the “just give me one minute to check something, sir,” and makes a call, but when she turns back…John has escaped.
What this really is, mind you, is a direct ripoff of the scene in North by Northwest where Roger Thornhill, also on the run from the police, is trying to secure a train ticket. Except Roger really needed to get on a particular train, whereas John apparently just wants a comfier bed than the priest can provide (oh, wwwwww…).
And now John is out $100, whereas Roger not only didn’t waste any money on an attempted bribe, but managed to get on the train anyway.
Deciding that he hasn’t done quite enough stupid things that could easily get him caught, John then heads…TO HIS OWN FREAKING HOUSE.
GORRAMIT, MAN, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU???
Yeah, he goes to his own house, not even in disguise or anything. The place his wife specifically told him not to go. The place that he must know is being staked out by the cops, just in case the murderer would be so immensely stupid as to go to his own HOUSE when he is wanted for MURDER.
This is really just so we can see that Brad Stine is over there, opening a bottle of champagne (no, really), and trying to put the moves on Monica (who, for some reason, I keep wanting to call Melissa). Now, he’s doing it in a very Christian, not-actually-touching-her way, but his intent is clear. He acts all sympathetic and stuff, but, like a good Christian wife, MonicaMelissa says nothing…actually, she literally says nothing when Brad asks her point blank if she has had contact with John, letting him assume the negative. So we know MonicaMelissa would fit in just fine in the Left Behind series.
Having thus seen Brad’s car in his driveway, and thus given himself one more thing to worry about, John drives away, cunningly turning his head to the side when he passes the cop car staked out at his own house.
But apparently the cops are not brain scientists either, because they don’t notice the lone occupant of a car, driving very slowly down a suburban street and stopping in front of the very house they are watching.
This is too much stupid for one session. Next time, John (might) begin his extremely time-sensitive investigation into the frame job.
Once he finds a nice, cozy bed, that is.
Well, I’m heading into this one with a tad more trepidation than when I critiqued The Penniless Princess.
Can you imagine a glorious alternate reality, where I’m critiquing this in a happy time? A time when we’re celebrating a milestone in our nation’s history, one long overdue, where we actually show our daughters that we don’t think less of them than our sons?
But no. We live in Bizzarro World now. A world where up is down, right is wrong, and a stupid, corrupt, pig-ignorant, pussy-grabbing, child-ogling, racist, classist, misogynist, petty, vindictive, narcissistic Putin-puppet is sitting in the White House in an ill-fitting suit, in a chair that he no doubt considers SAD because it is not gilded.
So now I’m going to watch a movie about how the RTCs have it soooooo hard in Washington, D.C. They’re soooooo put upon. This after they voted for this serial adulterer, this child-neglector, this materialistic opportunist who, you would THINK, is the antithesis of everthing they claim to stand for.
If there’s one silver lining to this clusterfuck (besides Alec Baldwin being able to do his perfect impression for the next couple of weeks or months or however long it takes for the GOP to find this thing not a useful enough idiot), it’s that the RTCs can never hold the moral high ground again. They’re done. You put a serial-cheating, child-neglecting, pussy-grabbing, stupid, corrupt, pig-ignorant, pussy-grabbing, child-ogling, petty, vindictive, narcissistic Putin-puppet in charge? Well, you are now officially done with claiming that you stand for any kind of values or morals.
And when he ruins your life, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourselves.
Okay, rant over. For the moment.
Okay, moment’s over. Movie’s starting.
We open with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., about being willing to die for a cause. Then we cut to the Jefferson memorial. Yeah, because the ideals of King and Jefferson are soooooo in line with RTCs. I mean, they know it was Jefferson who coined the phrase “wall of separation between church and state,” right?
And he also crossed out all references to miracles in his own Bible.
A rally is happening in the streets of Washington, with screaming people sporting signs for something called SUMAC, and featuring quotes like Gandhi’s “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.”
They’re protesting against preacher man John Luthor, who is being interviewed. The interviewer expositions that Luthor has been hailed as “God’s ambassador,” but that some say that he is “intolerant” and “condescending.”
John explains it away thusly:
“I’m not a Republican…”
“I’m not a Democrat, I don’t belong to any particular religious denomination.”
Of course you don’t, bud. We want this movie to sell to all intolerant, condecending denominations.
He also describes himself as a former “abusive, alcoholic, gambling drug addict.”
Damn, son, that’s a lot of addictions to have at once. You must’ve been a busy boy.
Of course, this is the typical “I was a horrible sinner saved by grace” stuff, and it’s pretty early to hit that, but whatevs. The interviewer has nothing to say about John’s past history of abuse, but instead pops right to her next subject, the “Faith and Fairness Act,”
“…to publicly declare your religious beliefs in a way that permits equal time and respect to other systems of faith…”
That’s all we get so far on what this proposed legislation is actually about, meaning…we know basically nothing. What are the details of this, and how would it affect John and his ministry or anybody else and their ministry…that is all fuzzy at this point.
(Yep, I decided to do this movie blind. Because I have so much to say about every little scene.)
But despite the fuzziness for the audience, John is ready with his take on the legislation:
“Freedom is fragile and costly, and must be defended by work and by faith…and even by blood.”
Wow, John, that doesn’t sound vaguely threatening at all. Jerk.
After the interview, John goes to a nighttime rally or whatever. I mean, I guess whatever it is when it’s not Sunday and a preacher yaks at you and you have an opening act.
Said opening act is a lame and supremely unfunny stand-up-isa guy, who cracks wise about how “meticulous” John is, and how he had a sinful past involving “buying Communion wine in kegs.” Har.
WAIT A MINUTE!!! THAT’S FRIGGIN’ BRAD STINE!!!
Damn, no wonder I’m not amused.
Still, it seems Brad isn’t wrong about the whole “meticulous” thing, as we cut to John prepping backstage, obsessively repeating a prayer to be “pure, honest, clean,” and doing some stupid shadow boxing exercises. He’s so deadly serious about this that we do get the impression that John is one of these intense kind of guys who is incapable of overcoming an addiction or a troubled past without CONTROLLING EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE AROUND HIM WITH AN IRON GRIP.
Doesn’t exactly endear me to him, but then again, maybe we’re going to see some growth in John. Maybe the persecutory events he’s about to go through will force him to loosen up a little.
As he’s in the middle of yet more pre-preaching praying, John is interrupted by Senator Evil Senator From The X-Men Movies, who wants John to say nice things about the Faith and Fairness Act. This seems a tad unlikely, as Senator X-Men just saw John talk about the blood that might be needed to combat such a bill, but the senator really wants John’s good word, since he has such a big ministry.
Okay, we’re only a few minutes in, and already this is falling apart. The very first thing we see in this movie is a demonstration AGAINST John and his ministry, so how does the senator think John’s support is necessary? Hell, there appear to be plenty of people who HATE John and what he preaches, so why don’t you use that in your favor, Senator X-Men? Talk about how John’s intolerant ministry is against freedom and equality! Do I have to do everything for you?
John says no, citing the whole “there is only one way to Heaven” bit, and Senator X-Men alludes vaguely to some favors he has done for John in the past. John shrugs this off (vaguely), and now it’s Senator X-Men’s turn to make a veiled threat, this time about running out of patience. Undeterred, John kisses Senator X-Men (yes, really. On the cheek) and heads out to preach.
Well, okay, he goes out to denounce the bill. Seriously, Senator X-Men just asked him to support it, and John goes out and THIRTY SECONDS LATER talks smack about it. That’s pretty rude, John. I thought you just said that all you wanted to do was preach the Bible.
So Senator X-Men gives a go-ahead over the phone. And out in the alley, a besuited dude gives a young black girl some pills. She tosses them back, and they go inside and he takes a picture of her with John when he’s done preaching, since “she loves your show.” Oh yeah, humorless TV preachers are always a hit with the under-18 demographic.
Driving home later, John thinks about a conversation with his wife and their little daughter. He has to miss her recital because of a “super-important board meeting,” but it’s okay because…she gets to make him breakfast in bed?
Man, RTC families are weird.
John spies a young girl on the side of the road, signaling for help. It is of course, the same girl from before, but John doesn’t notice. He does, however, get out of the car and follow her, and is, of course, conked on the head by Besuited Guy and dragged away.
Okay, this plan sure banked heavily on John a) noticing the girl and b) getting out of the car and following her instead of, for example, staying in his car and calling 911.
They take his car and drive it around while the girl makes out with the unconscious John and takes pictures in the backseat. Then they stop and Besuited Guy smacks the girl around to bruise her…and then kills her. Meanwhile, John regains consciousness, stumbles out of the backseat, and makes a run for it.
And, to make sure there is no suspense whatsoever, we see that all this is recorded on the phone of a person hiding in the woods.
Okay, I get that they’re trying to do a Fugitive thing here, with John as the wrongly-accused man, fighting against the odds to prove his innocence, but…why run NOW? Dr. Richard Kimble ran because he had already been convicted in a trial, and knew if he was caught, he would be sent right back to prison. But John has no idea what’s going on yet. All he knows is that he was ambushed and knocked unconscious. And again, as far as he knows, there is only one other man there. And they took the trouble to establish that John is an active guy who knows boxing. So why wouldn’t he take down this guy, or at least run to the first phone he can find to call the police and figure this out?
But no, John runs…like a guilty man would. And he only compounds his stupidity from here…
As in the book, Carrisford and his servant/s prepare a surprise for the poor little girl next door to them. (They mean Sara, of course; Becky doesn’t seem to be much noticed.) While Sara sleeps, the peas and the poodle decorate her room and cover her with blankets and leave a bunch of food. Hilariously, it is the poodle who does the lion’s share of the work…possibly because she has functional limbs.
As in the book, Sara wakes up and believes she is still dreaming, though this Sara describes it as “the best dream in the world.” Which, not to be insensitive or anything, but wouldn’t the best dream in the world involve getting her beloved father back?
In the book, Sara is convinced she is not dreaming because a dream fire would not feel hot. Here, it is because she can taste chocolate. And in the book, Sara immediately goes to get Becky and bring her over to share. Here, Becky has to come under her own steam.
“Oh, Miss Sara, m’night was so bad, it was—“
Dude, seriously. I…don’t think I want to know.
In the book, a note has been left for Sara, that this is all from “a friend.” Additionally, Sara gives some credit to “The Magic,” but knows she has a new human friend. And from the beginning, she wants to thank that friend, even though knowing who it is would make things just a bit less magical. In fact, she writes a heartfelt note and leaves it for the friend (who manages to sneak into the room and take away leftovers and leave fresh while the girls are working).
In The Penniless Princess, things are so much simpler:
“God did it. He’s taking care of us!”
And no, Sara doesn’t even thank that God, much less the vegetable agents of his will.
Sara and Becky sing a refrain of the Keepin’ On song, which is a lot easier to believe when you’re warm and well-fed. The poodle puppy, Soleil, even finds Mortimer and leaves him on the bed. I think we can agree at this point that Soleil is the real heroine of this story.
In fact, Soleil is so committed to detail that she accidentally stays in the room too long, getting the positioning of a vase just right. Sara thinks Soleil has just “wandered over” because she smelled food, and resolves to take her back next door. The same thing happens in the book, only with the Indian manservant’s pet monkey.
Then another book scene is mirrored, where Amelia finally calls out Miss Minchin on her treatment of Sara with a glorious Reasons You Suck speech. (Again, Becky doesn’t get a mention.) They have a “you’re-fired-you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit” moment.
(This scene is one of the very few places where the 1986 miniseries deviated from the book. In the book, Amelia gives the Reasons You Suck speech, but it is presumed that she continues on as partner at the school. In the miniseries, in an awesome worm-turning moment, Amelia resigns in protest, even if it means a future as “a frumpish nursemaid.”)
Anyway, at the next-door house, the peas are planning the evening, with an admittedly gigglesome exchange:
“I sink tonight we should bake zee girls a secret cake.”
“Wiz a secret surprise eenside! Like a pair of very nice shoes.”
“Eenside zee cake?”
“I am only brainstorming.”
Sara meets with Carrisford, who immediately opens his heart to her, explaining that he needs a miracle.
“Oh, I believe in miracles, Mr. Carrisford.”
Carrisford tells her about the poor girl he is trying to find (without naming her, natch), and Sara volunteers to “help” by praying for her. But of course, to properly pray for her, she needs to know her name, and Carrisford tells her, and then she tells him her father’s name, and thus they each discover who the other is.
Names of Sara’s father in versions of A Little Princess:
Book and 1986 miniseries: Ralph
1917 Mary Pickford version: Richard
1939 Shirley Temple version: Reginald
1995 Liesel Matthews version: (no first name given)
Shokojo Seira: Ryunosuke
The Penniless Princess: Douglas
Damn, VeggieTales, why you deviate? Was “Ralph” deemed a silly name or something? And why not at least follow the deviation tradition and pick an “R” name.
On the bright side, however, I’d like to point out something awesome here:
CAPTAIN CREWE REMAINS DEAD!!!
Seriously, I went into this movie with strong reservations. You see, the 1939 Shirley Temple version, followed by the 1995 Liesel Matthews version, both changed the story and made Captain Crewe SURPRISE not dead after all. Spared by the Adaptation (in both movies, due to a case of injury-in-battle-causes-amnesia), Sara (accidentally in the 1995 version, on purpose in the 1939 version) finds her father, and they live happily ever after.
Now, this is bizarre and disturbing for several different reasons. For one, it creates a YUUUGE plothole in the 1939 version. Sara is informed that her father’s fortune was “confiscated by the enemy.” By the end of the film, this has never been resolved, leaving us to conclude that, sure, they are together again, but still dirt poor.
I have a real problem with this because of the message it sends. Shirley Temple’s Sara refuses to believe her father is dead. She “knows it can’t be.” So she hunts for him for months. But this is a movie involving the Boer War, where soldiers are dying by the day. Indeed, there is a small but hear trenching scene in which people are checking the lists of the wounded and the dead, and an older woman is led away in hysterics, because her only son has died. So Sara gets her father back, because it “can’t be” that he is dead, but this poor woman’s son is still gone? Well, gee, lady, I guess you just didn’t want it enough.
Similar thing happens in the Liesel Matthews version, where Sara does believe her father is dead, but happily finds him alive. I mean, okay, I get that they don’t want people to cry, right? But is it really a better strategy to teach kids that death isn’t permanent? That if ou just wish hard enough, dead people won’t stay dead?
Where was I? Oh yeah, The Penniless Princess. Carrisford Asparagus promises to take care of Sara from now on, natch, and the peas are again kinda cute and funny:
“Why did we not ask her name sooner?”
“It seems so obvious after the fact!”
Then Miss Minchin comes over to collect Sara, and all is revealed, and Miss Minchin has an exchange with Sara that is out of the book, but changed ever so slightly.
In the book:
“I suppose that you feel now that you are a princess again.”
Sara looked down and flushed a little, because she thought her pet fancy might not be easy for strangers—even nice ones—to understand at first.
“I—TRIED not to be anything else,” she answered in a low voice—“even when I was coldest and hungriest, I tried not to be.”
In The Penniless Princess:
“I suppose that you feel you are a princess again.”
“I always was. Even if someone looks like a servant on the outside, they can still be a princess on the inside.”
Sara looks really smug when she says this, btw.
Miss Minchin is going to respond to this, but her Evil Allergies take over, and she just hops out.
So, with the villain dispensed with, we only have Becky to worry about.
I admit I was pretty curious by this point. See, different versions have dealt with Becky differently. Time for another list!
Book and 1986 miniseries: Becky moves next door, becoming Sara’s attendant/companion
1917 Mary Pickford version: Sorta implied that Becky is also adopted by Carrisford.
1939 Shirley Temple version: Um…who knows? Becky is captured by the police, who believe she and Sara stole all the nice things Carrisford gave them. Then Sara finds her father, and we don’t hear from Becky again. So I guess she rots in jail.
1995 Liesel Matthews version: Adopted by Captain Crewe; they all move back to India.
Shokojo Seira: Boy-Becky gets to go to college, as he’s always dreamed of doing.
The Penniless Princess: BECKY IS MADE A STUDENT AT THE SCHOOL, NOW RUN BY AMELIA!!!
Okay, I am totally digging this ending. I mean, I get that for the time and society in which it was written, making Becky a (very happy) paid companion was a huge step up and a big, big deal. But most modern audiences of kids would probably not “get” that—why does Sara get a fortune and a new daddy when Becky, who has never had anything ever, gets to…still be a servant?
So, down with this.
Finally, in the book and in the miniseries, we revisit the baker and the hungry child. The baker has all but adopted the child, making her an apprentice in the shop.
In The Penniless Princess, the MALE baker has also adopted/apprenticed the hungry BOY child. Grrr…
“When I saw your kindness, I realized how much I have to give.” [Bob the Tomato/Baker says to Sara]
That’s pretty awesome, Bob, and hopefully you’ll teach your new SON better manners than Sara, as well as kindness.
(Yeah, still annoyed that female characters were changed to male. Sure, VeggieTales, get rid of an awesome woman character to make room for a MAN.)
One last chorus of the “God’s Little Princess” song, and a new final line of the song…
If your dreams live or die, you’ll be…God’s little princess.
Dreams dying! Fun! Annnnnnd…we’re out!
Back to the real Bob and Larry the Cuke, who teach us today’s important lesson from the Bible: Romans 8:39. So God loves us no matter what, so we can love others, no matter what (yeah, right, we see sooooo much of that from RTCs), so little girl from the beginning with the letter, suck it up when people are assholes, because you’re God’s pretty little princess.
I mean, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I’m still not into the whole VeggieTales look, with the levitating and the hopping and the sliced bottoms, but there were a few genuine chuckles here and there.
I see in the credits that this was written by two men…who were apparently very threatened by the fact that there were more female characters than male in A Little Princess.
This kinda makes me want to do another VeggieTales thing, maybe for Easter or something.
But for now…
On to Persecuted!
Cut to downstairs in the house next door, where we learn that the employer of the French Peas is the old friend of Sara’s father. He has “recovered your fortune, but cannot find your sweet daughter.” Which is all very true to the book, so cool.
That being said, does anyone with more familiarity with VeggieTales know if the same vegetables are related to each other? I mean, I assume not, because Sara was spawned of a cucumber. Then again, we don’t know what vegetable her mother was.
I say this because Carrisford is an asparagus, which makes him look like Ermie’s father to me. Also he looks delicious. Gawd, I love asparagus.
Then comes another scene right out of the book. And some of my goodwill is washed away as they…well, they VeggieTale it right up.
Sara finds a fourpenny piece in the street. And she promptly thanks God for it. She heads right to the baker. In the book, the baker is woman—a grown, single woman who runs her own thriving business, thank you very much. Awesome.
Here, they have made the baker Bob the To-mah-to. Whatsa matter, VeggieTales, too many women in this story? Why the hell not make Bob be Carrisford instead?
In both the book and The Penniless Princess, Sara attempts to buy four penny buns, and the baker, out of an abundance of kindness, slips in two more.
In the book, Sara thanks the baker twice. In The Penniless Princess, Sara thanks him not at all. Instead, she takes the buns and heads across the street, where she thanks God instead of the baker.
Okay, hon, I get thanking God for the coin, which did kinda come out of nowhere, but a person (okay a tomato, but my point stands) gave you extra buns, not God.
Then, in both the book and movie, Sara spies a homeless child, colder and hungrier than she is. In the book, the child is a girl, and Sara gives her five buns, keeping one for herself. In TPP, the child is a boy (Whatsa matter, VeggieTales, too many women in this story?) and Sara gives him all of the buns.
Which is especially grating because they immediately cut to her meeting up with Becky in the attic. Becky plaintively asks if she brought any food. Sara wisely doesn’t mention that she got free food, but gave it all away.
I now amuse myself by imagining Sara saying that…and Becky kicking her veggieass.
Anyway, Ermie is also in the attic, inexplicably hiding under a bed. As in the book, she offers to share a care package from home.
In the book, there is a charming sequence where Sara takes bits of detritus from around the room, setting the table with them and painting a word picture for Becky and Ermengarde of a banquet hall where three princesses can feast.
Here, Sara just proposes they “give thanks.” To God, not her friend. Again, Sara, a person (Ermie) provided this for you. The words “thank you” do not leave Sara’s veggielips, though they do leave Becky’s. So it seems the street orphan has better manners than God’s Little Princess.
And, just as in the book, Miss Minchin catches them before they can actually eat a bite.
In this scene in the book, Miss Minchin could not give less of a crap about the doll, Emily. In TPP, Mortimer makes Miss Minchin sneeze again, so she chucks him out the window. Honestly, I don’t find that action entirely evil. Allergies, yanno?
Miss Minchin takes everything away and threatens Becky with firing. Me, I’d rather be fired by a sentient, armless green onion than this slimy asshole:
Anyway, Sara is left in tears.
“I know you will work everything out, God—but when? When? I know I am still your princess, but sometimes I am afraid I am only pretending.”
Heh. How ironic. Yanno, in the book, Sara is very conscious that she is pretending. She uses her princess-pretending as a personal philosophy, behavior guide, and coping mechanism. And she knows she’s doing this. It’s pretending for a purpose.
Here, Sara really believes that she is the real princess of a real god. This is why it’s sadly hilariously when preachers exhort us not to rely on ourselves, but only on God. Because Sara has now worked herself into a position where if she loses her God, she’s lost everything. She has no other coping mechanism for when things go wrong.
She sings a short and pathetic song about how she misses her (earthly) father but knows she is not fatherless because of her (heavenly) father. It is decidedly tuneless and not-sing-along-able.
She ends on a spoken, “I trust you, God.”
Though even if she didn’t, other persons/vegetables are about to take action in her life.
But I’m sure Sara won’t thank them, either.
Time for Sara’s birthday party, the pivotal moment in the story when she loses everything. Again, The Penniless Princess plays pretty fair with the original—a pivotal moment is kept, where Sara all but forces Miss Minchin to allow Becky to stay at her party.
But, for every time TPP stays true to the story, we need a departure. In the book, Becky made Sara a present for her birthday: a handmade, though dirty and worn, pincushion. Becky gives it with the recommendation that Sara can use her pretending skills to imagine it is “satin with diamond pins in.” It’s all very sweet.
Here, Becky has painted a rock with a monkey. I guess because Sara is from Africa? Whatevs. I’m rather inclined to agree with Miss Minchin on this one:
“A monkey rock. Fantastic.”
(btw, something else I should mention about Becky. She has a Cockney accent. This is not odd, and in fact is true to the book. The thing that is odd is that no other child, Sara included, speak with American accents, even though this movie takes place in London. Shades of the Shirley Temple version again.)
(As well, Miss Minchin speaks with an English accent, but a rather silly one such as an American might put on if they were goofily portraying an English villain.)
Anywho, just as the party is getting into full swing, Miss Minchin receives bad news: Captain Crewe is dead, and died penniless. In the book, Captain Crewe invested in a friend’s diamond mines, and then died of a combination of fever and stress when he lost everything.
Hilariously, the Shirley Temple version creates a giant plot hole with dad’s death: Captain Crewe is (presumably) killed in the Siege of Mafeking, and “his property and his mines were confiscated by the enemy.” Which, okay, but by the end of the film, when Sara has found her papa (alive, though injured and with amnesia that she immediately cures by screaming at him), there has been no word on the property and mines being restored. Meaning that yes, Sara has found her father, but they still have no money and he is now a disabled vet.
But I digress. The death scene is rather artfully done here, with a fellow soldier presenting Miss Minchin with Captain Crewe’s hat.
“You father has died. And what is worse, he has lost all his money in the diamond mine.”
Again, fair enough. That explanation should suffice for little kids.
And again, true to the book, Miss Minchin makes Sara into a servant, so she can try to recoup some of the money Captain Crewe owed her.
A month passes, and Sara becomes hungry and tired, but she and Becky keep their princessy perkiness and sing a song as they clean the school. And it is just creepy and bizarre to watch Sara scrub a floor, levitating the brush back and forth and she lies, armless, on the floor.
But here, see for yourself:
(This splices together several times that they sing the song—the scenes starting at about 1:28 don’t happen until later.)
(Also, the bit where the students tramp across the freshly-cleaned floor is straight out of the 1995 Americanized version.)
We get a shot of Sara reading her Bible before snuffing out her candle and hitting the hay, and then we get a Silly Song. Apparently, these are a staple of VeggieTales, to mix up the format and provide a bit of an intermission. It’s a totally-unrelated-to-The-Penniless-Princess scene and song, where two besties text each other, despite being in the same room. No mention of God, who I guess approves of incessant texting.
Back in Sara and Becky’s attic, Sara is telling Becky a Bible story. In keeping with the best VeggieTales criticism, this is an Old Testament story, of Joseph and his jacket, which VeggieTales has also made into an episode. Then Ermie shows up, and Sara shows them both the story (her Bible is illustrated with vegetables), explaining again that God loves them no matter what.
Becky then shows Ermie the way back to the actual school part of the building, which gives Sara an opportunity to meet the people next door. See, in the book, Sara meets a servant who lives next door to her, an Indian man named Ram Dass. He is manservant to the owner of the house, whom Sara knows only as “the Indian gentleman,” because he is an English gentleman from India. And will, of course, become very important later.
But since this Sara is from Africa rather than India, we get…two French servants.
Yep, makes total sense to me.
And instead of a pet monkey, they have a pet poodle. Because of course they do.
On that note, we’ll stop for this installment. But I did want to mention: despite my bitching, I am not a die-hard purist of A Little Princess. I think changes like India to Africa are silly because they are pointless, but if a version wants to dig into the characters and explore new things, I welcome it. In fact, my second favorite version, after the 1986 miniseries, is Shokojo Seira, which takes places in present-day Japan. Becky is a boy and Miss Minchin has a wannabe-boyfriend and Sara is marvelously imperfect, which even the Ermengarde counterpart calling her out for condescension and self-absorption. It’s…kinda awesome.
Having arrived at school, we meet the villain of the piece, Miss Minchin. And honestly, not bad. I can dig it. Apparently, she is a green onion. I have no idea if different vegetables are supposed to mean different things, btw, or if they just pick different veggies and try to include everything.
In another bit of adult humor, there is an ominous thunder-and-lightning when Miss Minchin is introduced, despite the sunny day outside. I admit, I chuckled.
But I need help with something. The introduction of Miss Minchin is also the introduction of a running gag: any time anyone says the words “Miss Minchin,” a horse whinnies. This is played for laughs, but I don’t get the joke. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea. Help!
We also meet Miss Amelia. In the book, Miss Amelia is Miss Minchin’s browbeaten younger sister. Here, they have combined the character with the French master from the book, Msr. Dufarge. So the character is still Amelia, but not Miss Minchin’s sister and she teaches French.
Eh, I can dig that, too. They have to shorten this story somehow.
What I can’t dig, however, is that Amelia is a blueberry. Last I checked, blueberries are not vegetables.
Oh, and while I’m at it, check this out:
Here is Sara in The Penniless Princess.
Here is Sara from the miniseries, looking very much as Sara is described in the book.
And here is Shirley Temple as Sara.
So, suspicion confirmed: they were clearly basing this more on the Temple version than the actual book. Sara Crewe, the real one, has short, straight dark hair, not red ringlets.
Not to mention that immediately, Sara acts all cutesy-child, in a decidedly un-Sara Crewe-like way:
“We rode a boat all the way from Africa! There was a storm one night at dinner, and the waiters kept dropping the dishes!” *giggles*
And the hits just keep on coming. Much as in the book, Sara requests a single doll, to have someone to talk to while her father is gone.
“You mean like…THIS ONE???” *Captain Crewe levitates a teddy bear out of thin air*
Um, no, Dad. That is a teddy bear. I asked for a doll. Idiot.
But Sara is delighted, even though every single other version has gotten this right: Sara has a doll, named Emily.
Now she has a bear, whom she inexplicably names Mortimer. Again, I am at a loss as to why they made this change. The only possibility that occurs to me is they felt there was a lack of male characters in this show, so they changed Sara’s toy from a girl doll to a boy bear.
(This is not the last gender-switch they will pull, either. Grrr…)
Miss Minchin, btw, is allergic to Mortimer. Or his stuffing, or something. This is also played for laughs. Allergies, HA!
All that done, Sara and Captain Crewe hug (or rather, they lean against each other, because no arms), and off he goes, back to
Sara immediately (and I do mean right that very second) goes to French class. In another cute moment of adult humor, the lesson is completely on French phrases that many American adults would know, such as “a la mode” and “cul-de-sac.”
This French class scene stays mostly true to the book: it’s a pivotal scene, where Miss Minchin first begins to truly resent Sara, already bilingual at age seven. In fact, it’s one of several instances where dialogue is lifted directly from the book, so..kudos!
Here, we also meet Sara’s future best friend, Ermengarde. And here we have a change: Ermengarde in the book is a not-very-bright girl, due to a combination of being…well, not very bright, and having a very overbearing father. But she and Sara are BFFs anyway, because Ermengarde also happens to be sweet and loyal and generous and loving.
And here, “Ermie” (a piece of asparagus) is just a goofball. The kind of cutesy little sidekick who shrieks every line. Great.
And it’s time for another song! Great. Again. This one is about imagining things. Now, this is a very important theme of A Little Princess—that imagining things can help us get through tough times…but this song, again, just doesn’t seem very catchy to me.
So, after their one five-minute class of the day, and their one five-minute playtime of the day, Sara and Ermie part ways and Sara heads back to her room…where she finds the little servant girl, Becky, asleep. This is, again, a very true-to-the-book scene, right up until the show starts playing it for laughs, having Becky (a blonde-haired carrot, if you care) fall asleep every few seconds, then wake up and not remember a thing, all Memento-style.
Sara proves her niceness by levitating a piece of cake at Becky.
And so, we now know all the characters we need to know…for now. The Penniless Princess has completely dispensed with Lottie, another of Sara’s friends from the book. And again, I don’t blame them for that a bit—Lottie is a very young, motherless girl whom Sara takes under her wing, even going so far as to let Lottie pretend that she, Sara, is her mama. And I can see how that might be confusing for the little kids this is aimed at.
Next time…Sara’s birthday party!
Okay, kiddies, let’s start 2017 off with some lighthearted fun. I think we need it after this past year, when seriously only ONE good thing happened. (Mind you, it was a big thing, and awesome!)
And speaking of classic literature for girls, I happen to have been kinda obsessed with A Little Princess since I was about seven. So this review will have copious comparisons to both the book, and the other movies/miniseries based on it.
First of all, this appears to be the first time A Little Princess has been Christianized. And A Little Princess is decidedly not a Christian book. In fact, there are more (and more serious) references to the Hindu gods of Sara’s childhood in India than there are to the Christian God. It would appear that Sara has a very egalitarian view of religion, saying “God bless you” to someone, yet also respecting other belief systems. The same goes for Ram Dass, who at one point is of the opinion that Carrisford’s Christian God could lead him to Sara.
(Okay, I realize I’m naming names and all, so obviously I’ll be spoiler-rich in this critique, all the way along. Fortunately, A Little Princess is the in the public domain, as are two of the movies, the 1917 Mary Pickford treatment, and the Shirley Temple version from 1939.
Jesus doesn’t even rate a mention in the book. Ironically, this is a criticism frequently made of VeggieTales in general by Christians: they mostly do Old Testament stories, and generally mention God, but hardly ever Jesus.
I’ll also say, by way of intro, that the VeggieTales have always kinda freaked me out. I never watched them as a kid, so I have no nostalgia associated with them. And frankly, their lack of arms and legs confuses and frightens me, especially when things they are “holding” simply levitate in front of them.
And I also am weirded out by the way most of the veggies look like they have already been chopped with a knife! I mean, just look at this horrific shit:
They’re ready to be tossed in a salad right now! So they should not be singing!
Oh well. Enough with my terror of vegetables that have clearly been infected with rage virus. On with the story!
The Penniless Princess opens as all VeggieTales…um…tales do: with that obnoxious opening song, followed by Larry the Cuke and Bob the To-mah-to talking about what we’re going to see.
I admit, some of the VeggieTales humor meant to appeal to adults is kinda cute and charming.
“Ah, the classics. They are so very classy.”
Larry reads a letter from some little girl from England, who has trouble being nice when people are assholes to her.
And so this segues into the story of Sara Crewe, a rhubarb spawned of a cucumber (Larry the Cuke also plays her dad), fresh off the boat from Africa and WRONG.
Sara Crewe grew up in India, not Africa. So we are left with the question of whether all foreign places are basically the same to the writers or (what I consider the more likely option) they were basing this story more on the Shirley Temple version than the actual book.
But honestly, I can’t otherwise imagine why they would randomly change where Sara grew up.
Anyway, the jokes-for-grown-ups start right off the bat…
“Musicals are so unrealistic!” [cries a random veggie] “People just bursting into song for no reason.”
…and the veggies do indeed burst into song for no reason. Now, an immediate song in a musical can have good reason: it can establish the setting and quickly and clearly introduce the main characters. Think “Good Morning, Baltimore” in Hairspray or “Skid Row” in Little Shop of Horrors.
Here, the song more introduces us to the theme: that Sara is a princess not just because she is her daddy’s little princess, but because she is also “daughter of a King” (God). This is the most significant change from the book…the why of “princess.” The book itself, and the very best (by a lot) screen version of it, the 1986 miniseries, demonstrate that Sara is a princess because she is trying to behave like a princess behaves. And she means that in the very best sense: princesses are supposed to be generous and kind and gracious and aware of all their privileges.
Other versions tweak this considerably: the insufferable (I know, voice crying in the wilderness) 1995 version simply states that all girls are princesses, because…well, because all girls are princesses, silly! And the Shirley Temple version simply seems to think Sara is a princess because she’s rich.
In fact, The Penniless Princess takes away more than just the why of princess; it takes away the agency of the princess in question. See, the whole behave-like-a-princess thing was Sara’s own idea, her unique personal philosophy. And a decidedly unreligious philosophy, at that. When things were at their worst, Sara didn’t turn to Jesus, but to her own “imaginings” and ideas. And if there’s one thing that’s antithetical to modern RTC-anity, it’s having a unique personal philosophy that has nothing to do with Jesus. Leaning on your own understanding, if you will, and being (gasp!) self-reliant.
Anyway, I gather that most of these VeggieTales songs are meant to be sung along with by kids, but I find this first one thoroughly uninspiring. And not just because I don’t share the belief system, but because of lyrics like these:
My little princess
You’ll never guess
How much love that
Your one life can bring
My little princess
For you are loved by me
And loved by the King
And Sara doesn’t even have one line to sing in this whole song.
And so, we arrive at The Minchin School for Lovely Little Ladies, which I consider a cute play on the school’s title. At least, it saves parents having to Google the words “Select Seminary.”
And next time, we’ll meet Miss Minchin!
The one and only REAL Miss Minchin.