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'Jonah and the Great Fish' translates better to film

Published: Sunday, Feb. 6 2011 6:30 a.m. MST

OREM, Utah — Not so engaging as a stage musical, "Jonah and the Great Fish" works much better as a film adaptation.

Originally performed on stage at the SCERA Center for the Arts, the film version of "Jonah," starring David Osmond as the main character, was screened recently at the LDS Film Festival.

Set to music and complete with singing Crabelles, menacing sharks, a great fish and his sidekick Chum, this story will entertain youngsters and mildly amuse adults.

It'll never take off in the same vein as "Finding Nemo" or "Aladdin," but this flick could come in handy on family night.

The story is a simple but familiar one from the Bible: Jonah doesn't want to go where the Lord wants him to go, but after spending some quality time inside a whale he decides he'll do what he's asked.

The same principle applies to the character Chloe as she faces a new school full of strangers after her family moves.

The story has great discussion points for families. The citizens of Ninevah choose up sides based on what hand they wear their glove. What kind of things cause people to look wrongly at others? Why is that a problem, and how should it be solved?

The stars in this film are pretty good with Osmond as Jonah — the ever cheerful, youngish prophet — and Korianne Johnson as Chum, the upbeat, energizer-fish buddy.

Osmond can sing well, and that comes in handy with a number of original songs for his character. Johnson is also accomplished at vocals.

Chloe, played by Summer Sloan, has an improved performance. Katherine Nelson, of "Emma Smith: My Story," is a wonderful, wise Queen of Nineveh, and Christian Busath is a great shark.

When this show played at the SCERA on stage, the actors taped during the day and performed for a live audience at night. The stage version didn't have the special effects behind it that greatly add to the setting and atmosphere of the story. When Jonah is tossed overboard, it's much more interesting watching him tread real water.

The choreography is better, and the acting is crisper than when it was done on stage. The lines are cleaner.

"Jonah and the Great Fish" is directed by Dennis Agle and produced by Ken Agle. It's part of the Liken series of scripture-based movies.

Again, this isn't headed for the big time, but it's colorful, fun and blessedly short at only 86 minutes.

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