Movies: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah’s Umbrella

I had forgotten I was waiting for this DVD to show up in the church library until I happened to notice it yesterday. I promptly checked it out, and Al and I watched it this afternoon. It’s fun to watch, especially finding all the allusions to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (apparently there was also one I missed, to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). But I found myself vaguely dissatisfied with the lesson aspect of the movie.

Larry the Cucumber hates being laughed at – so much so that the show opens with Larry wearing a paper bag over his head so no one can see him. Bob the Tomato decides to tell a story to help Larry deal with being laughed at when he is doing what he knows is right.

Minnesota Cuke is sent on a quest to find Noah’s Ark and to rescue a fellow archeologist who was also looking for it and has gone missing. Along the way he needs to follow the instructions left for him in a book, even if doing so will mean people laugh at him. His friend Julia reminds him that when he is doing right, God’s favor shelters him (also phrased as “God smiles at him”), and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

That’s a good lesson to learn, and I hope my son learns it. So what is it that makes me vaguely dissatisfied about it? Is it that the movie is aimed at young children (even my younger son is older than the primary target audience), and I’m looking for lessons that fit my perspective as an adult?

Certainly I dislike it when people laugh at me. But I honestly have trouble thinking of an occasion when people laughed at me for doing what was right. I remember being laughed at by other girls when I was in middle school, and I wasn’t even sure what they were laughing at me for, but my overall impression was that it had to do with my looks and my mother. (At that time I followed her example of disregarding society’s guidelines for feminine dress and behavior.)

I’m pretty sure I’ve been laughed at for making mistakes. (I know – to my shame – that I have laughed at others for their mistakes.) When I went to Spain the first time, we had a 10-day orientation period first to learn how to deal with culture shock, and I learned that being able to laugh at oneself and one’s mistakes was an important ability to have. (Unfortunately it was an ability I had never acquired. Since then I have worked on learning it.)

That’s a lesson that would be well worth creating a good movie about. Everyone has to deal with it, throughout life, and it’s not an easy lesson for some of us to learn. I don’t know whether it would fit the Veggie Tales model, though – I know from experience that you need to be able to laugh at yourself, but I’d have trouble coming up with a Scripture verse to support it.

I haven’t found many reviews of this movie, but most of those I have found are strongly positive. Some people think it’s good that the religious aspects of this show, unlike most Veggie Tales stories, are not limited to the beginning and ending portions where Bob and Larry talk about the day’s lesson. (I have been noticing this tendency increasing in the last few releases, but it is most obvious in this one.)

Larry’s original embarrassment was from other kids laughing at him when he thanked God for his food at a fast food restaurant. He didn’t say grace, though – he sang it. Those other kids shouldn’t have laughed at him, but think about it – when have you last seen anyone burst into song at a burger joint? No matter what he was singing, some people are going to think it’s hilarious.

The one negative review I read (if you decide to read it, be aware that the language is not G-rated and there are some sexual allusions) sees this as an example of evangelical Christians in this country having a persecution complex. Some of them are so sure they are going to be opposed ridiculed for Jesus’ sake, they seem to welcome any opposition and/or ridicule as evidence that they are being a good witness for Jesus, and not realize that they may be simply acting foolish.

The church I was assigned to for weekend ministry, while I was at Word of Life Bible Institute, had a very aggressive, in-your-face approach to evangelism. We were instructed to go hand out tracts to people on the street, ask them if they knew if they died that night whether they were going to heaven, and regardless of their reaction to keep talking to them, even if they tried to get away from us. One time they had a weeklong evangelistic emphasis. We weren’t there during the week, but we heard later how they had had the police called on them for their behavior. They counted it as a sign they were doing right; I suspected they were genuinely guilty of harassing people.

I’m not saying that singing one’s thanks to God in a fast food restaurant is harassing anyone – just that being laughed at when doing right isn’t always because you’re doing right, but because of the way you go about doing it. The review I linked to also points out that in this movie, the instructions that Minnesota Cuke is supposed to follow that get him laughed at really don’t make any sense. They seem to be given purely because they will get him laughed at, and he’s supposed to obey anyway as a sign of faith.

We do have to learn to do right even when other people think our beliefs or our actions are foolish. And we do have to learn to deal with being laughed at, regardless of the reason we’re being laughed at. But I think there could have been a better way to teach those lessons than putting them together in this way. And as the negative reviewer points out, there may be kids who would never have felt self-conscious about doing the right thing, who will now have learned the lesson from this movie that they can expect to be laughed at.

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