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Chris Hicks: 2 local discs lead off new religion-based DVDs

One contains comic's routine; another is an animated short for kids

A pair of locally produced discs lead off this collection of recently released religious-based DVDs.

"Latter-Day Night Biscuit" (HaleStone, 2005, not rated, $14.95). Local comic Johnny Biscuit (perhaps still best-known for his Utah Jazz television ads of years past) is highlighted with this hourlong stand-up routine that lampoons Mormon life from an inside perspective. It was taped at Fat, Dumb & Happy's Comedy Club in Orem, and the BYU crowd seems to laugh hard . . . although some of that laughter sounds "sweetened."

Much of Biscuit's material here is pretty funny, with swipes at the local culture, BYU, missionaries, churchgoing and pioneers.

He also does a clever impersonation of returned missionaries closing their church talks in the language of their missions — in Brooklyn, in the valley in Southern California, etc.

Occasionally, Biscuit ventures into slightly edgier territory; some viewers may not appreciate his mocking the cadence of LDS General Authority speakers in conference sessions. Or his broad racial stereotypes!

My problem here — and this is definitely a matter of personal taste — is that the material often seems better than the delivery. If you're a fan, you'll disagree. But for me, a little of "The Biscuit," as he's fond of calling himself, goes a long way.

Extras: Full frame, optional English subtitles, chapters. (Also available as an audio CD, $9.95)

"Jonah: A Great Fish Story" (Red Ball, 2005, not rated, $19.99). This may be the first DVD I've seen where the bonus elements are longer than the title feature . . . er, the title featurette. "Jonah" is a cute 20-minute stop-action animated short for kids — told entirely in rhyme. And Jonah has a pet crab. This is intended as a spiritually uplifting but humorous disc. Animation buffs will enjoy featurettes about how it was developed by Utah animators from James C. Christensen's art.

Extras: Full frame, audio commentary, alternate opening, making-of featurette, short film: "Bird Bonkers," trailers, optional English subtitles, chapters.

"Veggietales: Lord of the Beans" (Big Idea, 2005, not rated, $14.98). Charming, goofy spoof with the Veggietales gang taking on "The Lord of the Rings" films. Billboy Baggypants (played by Archibald Asparagus) leaves to his nephew Toto (Jr. Asparagus) a bean that can grant wishes, which leads Toto on a quest. He and companions Randolph (Mr. Nezzer), Ear-O-Corn (Larry) and Leg-O-Lamb (Jimmy Gourd) encounter evil Lord Scaryman (the leek that has no name) and his army of Sporks.

Extras: Full frame, audio commentary (by characters), making-of featurette, music video (by Wynonna), interview with Wynonna, interactive games, sing-along, subtitle options (English, Spanish), chapters; DVD-Rom applications.

"The 3 Wise Men" (Disney, 2003, not rated, $19.99). This animated feature from Spain (dubbed in English) is a bizarre combination of the biblical story of the three Wise Men and a slapstick fantasy, complete with monsters and demons, as told to a young boy during the Christmas holidays. How this will fly with U.S. audiences is anyone's guess. Martin Sheen and his son Emelio Estevez provide a couple of the voices for this American-language version. Some entertaining moments but it never quite worked for me.

Extras: Widescreen, language options (English, Spanish), chapters.


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com