Friday, December 5, 2014

#1,572. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)

Directed By: Jim Henson

Starring: Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Marilyn Sokol

Tag line: "A Merry Musical Treat For The Whole Family!"

Trivia: Features several original songs written by Paul Williams

Directed by Muppet master Jim Henson, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was a staple of HBO’s December programming schedule through much of the early ‘80s. Intended to serve as a “trial run” for an eventual feature-length film (which would become 1979’s The Muppet Movie), Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas has down-to-earth characters, a heartwarming story, and a handful of memorable songs.

In order to make ends meet, Emmet Otter (voiced by Jerry Nelson) and his Ma (Marilyn Sokol) do odd jobs (laundry, mending fences, etc) for those who live along the river. Times have been tough for the two ever since Emmet’s Pa died, but thanks to an upcoming talent competition, which promises a payday of $50 to the winner, their luck might finally take a turn for the better. 

Unbeknownst to each other, both Emmet and his Ma secretly enter the contest, in the hopes of winning enough to buy the other a nice Christmas present. A gifted singer, Ma intends to perform one of Emmet’s favorite songs, while Emmet and his pals Wendell Porcupine (Dave Goetz), Harvey Beaver (Jim Henson), and Charlie Muskrat (Richard Hunt) form a jug-band. 

On the night of the competition, both mother and son put on a great show, but are upstaged by a rock and roll group called the Riverbottom Nightmare Band, which will more than likely walk off with the main prize.

Based on a 1971 children’s book penned by Russell Hoban, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas features two extremely likable main characters: Emmet and his Ma. In the opening scenes, we spend some time with the two as they row their boat up the river to drop off laundry, singing songs (including the humorous "The Bathing Suit That Grandma Otter Wore") and enjoying each others' company. 
Henson and his crew also did a marvelous job creating the sets, giving this river community its own unique personality, and I liked the music as well, most of which was written by Paul Williams (including the very entertaining rock tune performed by the Rverbottom Nightmare Band). But like all of Henson’s best work, it’s the characters that make Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas so endearing.

One of the rare Christmas specials that can be watched (and enjoyed) any time of the year, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas has plenty of spirit, and a hell of a lot of heart.

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