This is a crazy mixed up word we live in. CGI effects are as common place as the “animal out of his safety zone” Pixar rip offs that feature them, so it's become easy to be immune to their magic, and when done correctly, within a good story, CGI effects can be magical. It was refreshing, then,?to view Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, a thirty year old Jim Henson production which relies on heart over spectacle; strings and puppets over computers.
This story focuses on a widowed mother otter and her son living hand to mouth in a fairly bleak mining town called Frogtown Hollow along a winding river. You see every string and effect as they row their boat, slide down the snowy hills, and sing and dance -?but rather than feeling old and cheap it feels special and more real. (Though it is only fair to say that technically it is still old, and while not cheap, at least on a budget.)
Details are given to each adorable character that made me laugh with delight each time another was introduced. My favorite was Doc Bullfrog with his top hat and brocade – until I met the awesome bad ass rock band The Riverbottom Nightmare Band, made up of a surly bear, a fish, a rat, a snake, and a lizard. Not only do the fivesome look like the kind of puppets that could rough you up, but their song “Nightmare” is really, honestly awesome.?
My only qualm is that the good songs like the Nightmare band jam, the strange one about grandma otter's big bathing suit, and the two sweet jug band songs performed at the talent show are played only once, while the less fun, kind of boring and weepy song mama sings gets played over and over and over…
Most of you might remember this classic from your childhood. I certainly did once it was brought to my attention again by my coworker friend Ben, who waltzed up to me with an 8X10 printout of the Riverbottom Nightmare Band and said “Remember this?” I am in his debt for reminding me of such an odd and diverting little movie that is perfect viewing this holiday season.