Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow: Some Early Thoughts

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As we near Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays, I’m reminded of the days when I would do wild and crazy things like review old Thanksgiving episodes of Gilmore Girls or the Christmas Challenge of watching Christmas episodes every day leading up to Christmas. While I know it’s been tough to keep up with writing in recent months, maybe now’s a good time to get back into it. And I’ll start with some early thoughts of Lifetime’s new movie Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow, which premieres tomorrow night at 8:00 ET/PT.

If you haven’t heard about this movie, here’s a quick description:

The movie follows the story of the Emmerson family, recently divorced father Ron and his kids Tim and Annie, as they head to the quaint town of Turkey Hollow to spend a rustic Thanksgiving at the farm of Ron’s eccentric Aunt Cly. Surprised by the lack of internet and technology in Turkey Hollow, Tim and Annie soon find themselves swept up in tracking the “Howling Hoodoo,” an elusive monster that, up until now, Turkey Hollow residents have long dismissed as mere legend. The Thanksgiving holiday threatens to take a bleak turn when a scheming neighbor frames Aunt Cly for turkey theft, but the fractured family teams up with some surprising new friends to save the day.

Now, the minute I hear “Henson,” I’m interested. And while the Muppets haven’t met my expectations (or their potential) in recent years — sorry, I’m an old school Muppet Show and movie fan — I still wanted to tune into this and check it out. Plus, hey, it has Mary Steenburgen in it, so that’s a plus.

What I didn’t know is that it was based on original characters and a story written in 1968 by Jim Henson and his longtime writing partner Jerry Juhl. This definitely gives it some credibility. It also starred Jay Harrington, of Better Off Ted fame, as well as Ludacris as the narrator. Now, you might find the fact that Ludacris is in a Henson film is, well, ludicrous, but quite honestly, he was fantastic. He brought a great sense of humor to the movie, and I could’ve had more of him in it — had the narrative had allowed for it, of course.

Overall, it was a cute movie. Sure, the premise was a little contrived and cheesy — and it had some rather slapstick villains, which usually goes on my don’t-like list — but it was cute. I mean, the plot includes turkey theft and it’s a holiday-themed movie on Lifetime. What do you expect?

Now, my one caveat is this: If you’re looking for a movie filled to the brim with Henson creatures, like Muppet or Sesame Street films, this isn’t really one of them. It’s a good bit of time before any Henson creature appears. That said, once it does, they were adorable and used well. Plus, they used other elements throughout the movie in its scenery and setting that really seemed magical and fun. So you might have to wait for it, but it’s well done.

So my recommendation? Check it out. It’s a cute family movie and a little different from the usual TV movies coming out right now. And it’s a good taste of Turkey Day, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow premieres Saturday, November 21, at 8 pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

*Photo by Richard Paris/Lifetime.

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Holiday Recap Review: The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol

This is my favorite Christmas movie. Ever. And honestly, I was leaving this for Christmas day just because of that fact. So in the last 30 minutes of Christmas day (What? I’ve been busy. It’s Christmas after all), let’s share thoughts.

It’s hard to say what I love about this movie. I’ve watched it year after year (tradition), and the jokes still aren’t stale. I guess that’s reason #1. Seriously, just certain lines–“Light the lamp, not the rat!”–and the great small details they put in–reopening the door to the caroler just to throw a wreath at him–are just fantastic. Oh, and those subtleties that you might not notice: Jacob and Robert Marley? Robert Marley? Is anyone not getting this joke yet?

Plus, I love me some Michael Caine. I find it ridiculous, but just seeing him makes me smile, even if he’s a mean old Scrooge. 

Oh and the songs. The songs! I love the songs. How can you not love the songs? Original songs for a classic tale. I love it. Even the short scat between Bob Cratchit (Kermit) and Tiny Tim (Robin) is fantastic.

It’s just in the spirit of Christmas (pardon the pun) and the spirit of the Muppets and Jim Henson. It has the adult appeal that the Muppets always had. It’s not dumbed down for the kiddies, but kids still enjoy it! It’s fun for all ages–literally. And as Gonzo–er, Charles Dickens–says, “It’s culture.”

Anyway, for those of you who haven’t seen it, please be ashamed! Continue in the tradition of Christmas and rent this movie. You can enjoy it all year round. I try to.

Just a reminder

Just a reminder that tonight NBC is showing the Muppet Christmas special of 2008: A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa. Entertainment Weekly actually didn’t think it was terrible, but as a dedicated Muppet fan, I don’t have high hopes. Especially with the last couple Muppet specials. It all just hasn’t been the same since Jim Henson passed.

Anyway, I’ll definitely let you know what I think. You should watch along, too, because I want your opinions. If anything, let’s just watch it and get in the Christmas spirit! If anything, maybe Jane Krakowski will sing in it, and that’s always a positive experience.

Holiday Recap Review: The Christmas Toy

THE CHRISTMAS TOY

To start off our Christmas specials, I chose a TV special from my childhood. As one of my friends said when I told her it was finally on DVD and I bought it, “I remember that movie. We watched the hell out of that movie!”

It’s a little different from your traditional Christmas movie, but it’s got a familiar feel. Why? It’s got a similar premise as that of Toy Story: Toys in a playroom that come to life when the humans are away.

Of course, this story takes place on Christmas Eve, not Andy’s birthday. Rugby Tiger was last year’s Christmas toy, Jamie’s favorite toy. What he doesn’t understand is that Christmas comes just once a year, so when he hears it’s Christmas Eve, he doesn’t understand and sets out to lie beneath the tree.

Slight somber hitch, though, is that if a toy is found out of place, he’s frozen forever–a little different than the innocence of Toy Story.

As the rest of the toys go to save Rugby, Rugby releases a new toy, who, of course, doesn’t know she’s a toy.

The movie’s only 87 minuts long, and you can tell it came out in the late ’80s, but it’s got Jim Henson toys and some songs to boot, so to me it’s just fun. It’s got some sad moments to it, but in the end you’re happy, ready to celebrate Christmas the way you should: as a child and full of Christmas magic.

More Puppet News

If you want a little more info on the new Henson Co. puppet project The Happytime Murders, it looks like a lot more descriptions are up and around the internet (some even relating the movie to Angel‘s “Smile Time,” though that might be pushing the envelope a little bit). Here’s some news that was posted on Whedon.info:

I think we can all thank Jason Segel and his Dracula puppet musical for this startling and exciting turn of events from The Jim Henson Co. According to The Hollywood Reporter, they’ve picked up a spec script that will bring puppets into the mature world of film noir in “The Happytime Murders.”

Yes, you read that right. Jim Henson Co. puppets are going noir, and I for one couldn’t be happier.

Written by Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson, “Happytime” takes place in a world where humans and puppets co-exist. But in this world, being made of felt and possessing a set of googly-eyes makes you a second-class citizen. Things turn ugly when, one by one, the puppet cast of television’s “The Happytime Gang” begin turning up dead. It falls to a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private-eye puppet to take on the case — and yes, in noir fashion, he has personal demons and a drinking problem to overcome.

Obviously, the movie is not intended for children, and aims to be a dark comedy, borrowing liberally from movies like “L.A. Confidential” and “Pulp Fiction.” I suspect it was also inspired by “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and, maybe, just maybe, that infamous puppet episode of Joss Whedon’s “Angel.”

And I still wouldn’t be surprised if Segel’s puppet renaissance sparked the Henson Co. to look at getting a little edgier. It’s not entirely new ground for them — Henson always pushed the mature envelope in the original Muppet movies, and scared an entire generation with “The Dark Crystal.” The Henson Co. has been asleep for so long, I really hope this new project is a sign they’re still alive, and ready to entertain us again. But hey, if all I get is one Henson-style puppet movie that mashes together all my hard-boiled favorites, than I can die happy.

Segel, for his part, is hard at work scripting a new Muppets movie for Disney.

If you haven’t seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you probably don’t know the Dracula puppet musical, but it’s hilarious. This article does mention Angel, but not to the same degree as others (no wonder it’s on a Joss Whedon affiliated website). Anyway, I’m getting excited.

Sadly, details are still limited. I doubt it’s Indie, but I can’t tell for sure. I don’t remember the specifics of what Disney owns. Does Disney own just the Muppets or all Henson? If it’s all Henson, probably not an indie release, but I don’t want to say anything for sure (it’s all speculation on my part). I also can’t find any release dates. I’m excited but a wee bit frightened…should I get my hopes up after previous films?

I do want to clarify one thing: From what I can tell, this is not a Muppet project. It’s a Puppet project done by the Henson Company. Don’t think Kermit gets killed people. This is new and NOT Muppets.

Breaking News: Bringing back the Muppets I knew?

Maybe not the Muppets themselves, but Henson is going in that direction. According to Muppet Newsflash,

The Jim Henson Company has announced the development of a new film project called “The Happytime Murders“. The original film noir murder mystery will fall under the company’s Henson Alternative banner, a division that develops projects not intended for children (such as Puppet Up! and Tinseltown). Based on a story Dee Austin Robertson and Todd Berger, the original feature film will take place in a world where humans and puppets co-exist – although in this society puppets are viewed as a second-class citizens. When the puppet cast of “The Happytime Gang”, a popular ’80s children’s TV show, begin to dropping like flies, a disgraced puppet LAPD detective turned private eye takes on the case. Todd Berger has penned the screenplay and Brian Henson is said to be on board to direct. I will be sure to keep you updated as soon as more information on this film becomes available.

They’re calling it Adult Puppet Noir, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. It looks like this might actually bring us back to some sort of actual REAL entertaining content from Henson. Saying that they’ll not be aiming this toward any children at all gets my attention. I mean, did any of you see Puppet Up!? Very funny.

Anyway, at least some part of Henson is on the case. I still am putting a lot of eggs in a basket for Jason Segel and the Muppets themselves, but this certainly helps.

(See an updated post here: More Puppet News)

Perish, Disney, Perish!

So, Disney is doing another Studio DC, which has now been elaborated on here. I am not thrilled. As much as I love the Muppets, it’s just not the same anymore, and from what I saw on the first Studio DC, the jokes aren’t funny. They’re dumbing down the comedy. Sigh.

In other news, a new Christmas special is on deck. This one will be aired on NBC. I keeping my fingers crossed for good things, but I just can’t imagine what they would be. The previous TV movies have been horrid for the Muppets, and while this is only one hour, I think Whoopie Goldberg is still involved and the last Christmas special told me that that’s never a good idea.

But in brighter news, they’re finally releasing Jim Henson’s Christmas Toy on DVD. I’m very excited, as this was one of the movies I grew up with. I wonder if it’s as great now as it was then! Preorder is available already on Amazon.