J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

(Sort of) Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow

Turkey is delicious. It is no accident it has become the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Anyone serving beets instead should be deported. However, Ron Emmerson and his young son and teenaged daughter are guests of his hippy granola Aunt Cly, so they will have to make do. Fortunately, they will get so sidetracked with the monsters in the forest they will not have time to worry about food in Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow (trailer here), an original Lifetime movie produced by Lisa Henson, based on an idea the Muppet creator once developed with his writing partner Jerry Juhl, which premieres on the cable network this Saturday.

Emmerson basically lost everything in his recent divorce except his dignity—and even that is debatable. Unexpectedly stuck with his kids, the snotty social media-obsessed Annie and the geeky Tim, Emmerson invites them all over to his Aunt Cly’s hoping she would look after them while he finishes a presentation for his corporate slave-master. However, when gawky Timmy inadvertently lets loose evil Eldridge Sump’s gaggle of genetically juiced turkeys into the wild, Aunt Cly stands to lose her organic sustainable farm to Scrooge McTurkey.

To redeem himself, Tim heads out to take a snap of the local Big Foot-like legend and hereby claim a longstanding reward. Instead, he and Annie encounter a quartet of musical, rock-eating monsters and a pair of Sump’s goons.

Frankly, the villainous agri-business baddie is just a tediously dull cliché. It would have been much more interesting and realistic if the bad guys were the hippies, trying to frame an industrious Aunt Cly for reasons of ideology. However, the whole point of Hollow are the monsters and they are rather cute. They definitely follow in the Muppet tradition, except maybe bushier around the eyes. Youngsters who are already fans of the Muppets and the Fraggles should be charmed silly by the Turkey Hollow quartet.

Even with her character’s annoying eccentricities, Mary Steenburgen is wonderfully acerbic as Aunt Cly. Believe it or not, this is quite a nice role for her. Jay Harrington also exceeds expectations as the not-as-square-as-he-sounds Emmerson. However, the kids are just sort of okay and the bad guys are a shticky embarrassment. Yet, the real wincing comes from Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ supposedly hip and ironic walk-on narration sequences. Let’s just say he is no Rod Serling.

You’ve got four endearing monsters in Hollow and if you are under thirteen that is more than enough. Despite the environmental organic blah, blah, blah, the film still has a nice message regarding the importance and resiliency of family. Director Kirk R. Thatcher, a Henson veteran, keeps it moving along at a good clip, powering through the shortcomings of Chris Baldi and Tim Burns’ ultra-conventional script. Worth checking in on to see the latest creations of the Henson workshop, but not worth rescheduling your weekend for, Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow airs this Saturday (11/21) on Lifetime.

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