For the last 15 years, Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer have been churning out "VeggieTales" cartoons, in which singing, bouncing CGI vegetables teach moral lessons through Biblical stories retold in goofy, extra-kid-friendly ways. They made the jump to the big screen with 2002's Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, a softened-up version of the Bible's Jonah story. Now they're back again with The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, a harmless nothing of a film that drops the Biblical metaphors almost entirely, but doesn't find much to replace them. It's the equivalent of a sack of Duplo blocks: brightly colored, simple, clunky, and no fun for anyone but the very young.
The usual VeggieTales cast of characters, mostly voiced by Nawrocki and Vischer, crop up here as usual, with new names and occupations. Three veggies serve as "cabin boys" at a pirate-themed dinner theater, where they long to move from table service to the stage show, but their incompetence, laziness, and cowardice get in the way. But when a princess drags them into the 17th century to rescue her brother, who's been kidnapped by a nefarious pirate with designs on her kingdom, they have to overcome their issues and become heroes.
The saving grace of the VeggieTales series has always been its silly songs and surreal humor, but little of either are on display here, apart from the sequence where one of the heroes shucks off his quest and settles into a lazy, gluttonous life in a cavern full of cheese curls, which inexplicably turn out to be shrieking, toothy little monsters, highly reminiscent of the screaming slugs from Flushed Away. There's nothing particularly offensive about Pirates, though Christian parents will be disappointed to learn that it isn't Biblically based (perhaps because this is the series' first major-studio release) and doesn't have much sense of purpose, moral or otherwise. It's also visually simple enough that there's no good reason to see it in a theater; it feels like an average straight-to-DVD kids' feature inexplicably slapped onto the big screen. Mostly, it's full of mild goofiness and equally mild messages about believing in yourself. It's all good-natured enough. It just isn't actually good.