Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas Movie Poster Image
Early Muppet TV special with warmth, tunes, critters.
  • NR
  • 2001
  • 48 minutes

Parents say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

There is a general theme of when-one-door-closes-another-opens; the Otter household gets an unexpected windfall even though crucial victory eludes them in the talent show. Emmett and his mother both act a little bit selfishly in entering the contest without telling each other, and they find that they have more success combining their acts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Emmet Otter and his Ma both have each other's best interests at heart (though each also pursues the talent-show goal with a little bit of self-serving rationalization). They take the defeat in the show with good manners and no resentment. The bullying Riverbottom Gang never get their comeuppance for bad behavior, which is sort of refreshing in the context -- they do nothing underhanded to win the contest, either -- and there's no hard feelings by the heroes in the end.

Violence & Scariness

Just a threat of intimidation by the rowdy Riverbottom Gang. One of them, a fish, spits water at a bystander.

Sexy Stuff

 Hard to ignore the Muppet commercial empire that ensued (with other Muppet movies and shows occasionally trailered on the different release versions of this).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that except for Kermit the Frog in an introductory sequence, none of the familiar Muppet characters appear here -- no Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Elmo, Gonzo, etc. There is repeated mention of a dead loved one, an eccentric but fondly remembered father.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEric N. December 13, 2016

An older classic that still entertains

My boss mentioned this movie as a favorite from her adolescence and eventually forwarded me the link on Youtube (yes, you can watch the whole thing on Youtube).... Continue reading
Parent Written bymacmomdaly November 24, 2009
It's too bad that this movie does not get any air time any more. It has great message. Plus, who doesn't love cute, furry animals singing? Great fa... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byDominicboo1 May 28, 2011

Cute Christmas Story For All Ages

Jim Henson's sweet Christmas story has a messsage of family, but at the same time Ma and Emmet often reminsice of Emmet's deceased father. These scene... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycooldude1234 November 27, 2010

classic and clean

I'm watching. This movie right now and there is nothing wrong with it its just an innocent positive movie with good role models and positive meesages like... Continue reading

What's the story?

EMMET OTTER'S JUG-BAND CHRISTMAS was one of various TV specials that the Jim Henson Company made before and up to the point when the troupe found a long-term showcase in the internationally syndicated The Muppet Show. With Kermit the Frog the one familiar Muppet doing the introduction, it takes place largely in a riverbank community populated by muskrats, foxes, bullfrogs, badgers, woodchucks, etc. Young Emmet Otter and his widowed Ma eke out a living after the demise (no details given) of the father, Mr. Otter, a failed snake-oil salesman. The nearby town of Waterville offers $50 in a Christmas talent contest, and Emmet secretly enters it with his jug-band pals to buy his mother a piano (at least make a down payment). Ma, a singer, enters in secret herself, to buy a proper guitar as a present for Emmett. But the last-minute competition of a raucous rock band fronted by the troublemaking Riverbottom Gang (a funny takoff on an Ozzy Osbourne-like 70s arena-rock) leads to an ironic -- though happy -- finale.

Is it any good?

A good-hearted Jim Henson spirit, paying tribute to family, friendship, and music (an eclectic score by Paul Williams), permeates Emmet Otter. It matters little that the muppetry here is of a simpler, lower-tech variety than productions such as as Muppet Treasure Island or Labyrinth. It's lower on the slapstick/action register than a lot of kiddie movies, and in fact one can practically imagine the whole tale done with live actors and human characters -- without significant change. But it wouldn't be the same, of course.

The miniature sets are clearly painstakingly done, and the sight of Kermit on a bicycle or swamp creatures in the background ice-skating are Muppet-errific indeed. A leisurely pace gives it a nice bedtime-story flavor, and the setting -- not really the 1930s but with a sort of Depression-era milieu and attitudes -- endows a Waltons Mountain flavor. One complaint; maybe it's the beady little black eyes, but the lookalike, pouchy-cheeked otters just don't connect to the camera and the viewer the way Henson's other, more expressive creations do.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the moral of the tale, and the reaction of the characters to the outcome of talent show. Ask kids if they can point to times in their own lives when disappointments turned into positive outcomes.

  • Tell younger kids what the term "snake oil salesman" really means. Older kids can be pointed toward a variation of the same plotline as this in the classic O. Henry Christmas short story "The Gift of the Magi."

  • Look into the history of "jug-band" music, and where it fits into the pantheon of American entertainment. The documentary Chasin' Gus' Ghost goes into the subject.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love puppets and holidays

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