Somewhere, Jim Henson is smiling. Twenty years after his death, so-called childrens entertainment especially animation, in all its variations has been thoroughly accepted as a serious art form. Of course, plenty of TV viewers and moviegoers recognized Hensons genius as a puppeteer and storyteller while he was alive and turning out endearing Muppets shows and extraordinary movie fantasies (Dark Crystal and Labyrinth). Wrapping up the seasonal and sincere Joy of Life film series, Emmet Otters Jug-Band Christmas, a 1977 holiday television special adapted from Russell Hobans childrens book, is as smile-inducing as anything in the masters oeuvre. Poor Ma Otter and son Emmet are having a tough go of it in Frogtown Hollow, with no dough to spare for Christmas presents. (A timely sentiment this year, alas.) Each secretly enters a talent contest in hopes of winning the prize money and going shopping. Along with Hensons marvelous puppetry, the production boasts original songs by Paul Williams, including When the River Meets the Sea. The uncut version screens today, with Kermit the Frogs restored role in the proceedings, to the delight of grown-ups with fond memories and children afforded their first glimpse of Hensons special gifts.
Sun., Dec. 20, 2 p.m., 2009