The themes for the film are compassion and mercy. The film weaves two stories together to illustrate these themes. The first takes place in the current day and concerns a mishap that occurs on the way to a concert. The second, set in ancient Israel, is based directly on the biblical story of Jonah. Through both stories viewers learn that they should be compassionate and merciful and that all people deserve a second chance.
This film features the popular "Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" in both segments. They were first seen in the Silly Song of the same name in Very Silly Songs! and later hosted The Ultimate Silly Song Countdown.
Most of the animation was done in house by Big Idea Productions.
Bob the Tomato and Dad Asparagus are driving Veggie children to see the popular singer "Twippo" in concert. During the drive, Laura taunts the other children because she won a backstage pass, which particularly annoys Junior. Bob briefly loses control of the van after being hit in the back of the head by a guitar, and Laura loses ticket in the chaos. To make matters worse, soon afterwards a porcupine shoots out two of the van's tires, and the van veers off the road and careens down a hill, stopping short of a river.
In a nearby restaurant, Bob blames Dad Asparagus for the crash and Junior tells Laura losing her pass was her own fault. Junior is met by The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, who tell Junior he was being rather tough on his friend and encourage him to show some compassion. To illustrate their point, they tell all the Veggies a story about a man of God named Jonah.
Jonah is a Prophet of ancient Israel who goes from town to town delivering God's messages. One night, God asks him to deliver a message to Nineveh; however, Jonah is unwilling to preach a word of repentance to the corrupt Ninevites and instead tries to flee from the Lord by having The Pirates sail him to Tarshish. After leaving port, a guilt-stricken Jonah goes below deck to rest where he meets a salesman caterpillar named Khalil, who agrees to go with Jonah to sell his merchandise.
After experiencing a nightmare, Jonah awakens to find the ship beset by a great storm. Captain Pa Grape concludes the storm has been sent because God is angry at someone on the ship. The group decides to play Go Fish to divine who is at fault. Jonah loses the game and is forced to walk the plank and as soon as Jonah is off the ship, the skies clear. The Pirates attempt to reel Jonah back in, but before they can do so, Jonah is swallowed by a giant whale. The pirates attack the whale using a cannon with a bowling ball as ammo. The whale swallows the ball (which Khalil is hiding in), disgorges Jonah's lifebelt, and swims away.
Inside the belly of the whale, Khalil finds a grieving Jonah and the pair are soon visited by a host of God's angels, who explain if Jonah repents, God will grant him a second chance. Upon repenting, Jonah and Khalil are spit up onto the shore, where they ride Jonah's camel Reginald to Nineveh.
After Jonah is denied entrance to the city, the Pirates appear, explaining they won the Mr. Twisty's Twisted Cheese Curls sweepstakes which grants them free access to Nineveh where they are produced. The group is soon arrested after Larry tries to steal the King's Cheese Curls and are sentenced to death. As a last request, they are granted an audience with King Twistomer. Jonah then delivers the message given to him by God the Ninevites should immediately repent of their ways forever or Nineveh will be destroyed; King Twistomer and the Ninevites quickly agree.
Still expecting God to destroy Nineveh for their past sins, Jonah watches and waits from a distance in the hot sun. God provides a plant to shade Jonah, only for Khalil to eat a single leaf off the plant, which kills it. Jonah laments the dead plant, and Khalil is disappointed Jonah shows compassion for a plant, but not the Ninevites. Khalil then tries to explain God is compassionate and merciful and that he wants to give everyone, both Israelites and non-Israelites, a second chance. Jonah refuses to accept this and states it would be better if he was dead. The story ends with Khalil and Reginald leaving Jonah to his sulking.
Back in the present day, the Veggies are disappointed in the anti-climactic ending, but come to understand the point of the story: God wants everybody to show compassion and mercy, even to those that do not seem to deserve it. Twippo then appears in the restaurant unexpectedly and offers to give everybody a lift to the concert, while Bob forgives Dad Asparagus and Junior gives his Twippo ticket to Laura. The film ends with a song and the arrival of a tow truck driver, who is none other than Khalil.Phil Vischer as Bob the Tomato / Archibald Asparagus (as Jonah and Twippo) / Mr. Lunt / Pa Grape / Mr. Nezzer / Apollo Gourd (as King Twistomer) / Jimmy Gourd / Phillipe Pea
Mike Nawrocki as Larry the Cucumber / Jerry Gourd / Jean Claude Pea
Tim Hodge as Khalil
Dan Anderson as Dad Asparagus
Lisa Vischer as Junior Asparagus
Kristin Blegen as Laura Carrot
Shelby Vischer as Annie
Jim Poole as Scooter
"Billy Joe McGuffrey"
"Steak and Shrimp"
"The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything", sung by Relient K
"Message from the Lord"
"It Cannot Be"
"Second Chances", sung by Anointed
"Jonah Was a Prophet"
"In the Belly of the Whale", sung by Newsboys
"The Credits Song" (end credits only)
"Billy Joe McGuffrey" (Single Version), sung by Chris Rice (soundtrack only)
Based on 55 reviews collected by critical response aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, Jonah has a 65% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 5.8 out of 10. The site's consensus reads, "Jonah teaches wholesome messages to children in a funny, bouncy package." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 58, based on 20 reviews.
In 2008, Universal Pictures and Big Idea, Inc. released a quasi-sequel to Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie called The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie. It was the first movie from Big Idea that wasn't animated by Big Idea; most of the animation was produced at Starz Animation. Larry, Pa Grape, and Mr. Lunt as The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything were the only returning characters from Jonah, and the movie made no reference to the previous film.