The Otters were poor: to begin with. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
The wondrous tale of Emmet Otter…. and his magical, mystical Jug Band.
Ok, so the whole 50 minute movie could easily be summed up in a paragraph. And not only is his Jug Band not mystical, they fail in their goals. Spoilers behind! No big deal. I’m kind of assuming that anyone reading this post has already seen this and is only here to humor me, or to relive their EOJBC memories and nostalgialize their lost youth.
On the cover of the dvd that we looked at yesterday, who is front and center? That is right, none other than Kermit the Frawg. But if you are looking for Kermie in the movie, you better look fast, because this is about the only time we see him:
Kermit enters the scene riding a bike. I always loved it when they would show him riding a bike, like in the iconic scene in the Great Muppet Caper. Seems like these shots would be a pain in the ass for the Muppeteers.
Kermit runs into the sign pointing the way to the sleepy communities of Waterville and Frogtown Holler which is where Emmet and his Ma live.
A group of bad muppets, the Riverbottom Gang, who will later become the River Bottom Nightmare Band, aka “the Nightmare”, pull up and hassle the frog. I included this shot because it was their first appearance, and the only appearance of any of the characters in this prologue.
The bad guys steal Kermit’s scarf and ride off in their noisy jalopy. I’ve always thought it was cool how the car actually rides off. I guess it was remote controlled or something. You already hate these guys though, because anyone who picks on Kermit has got to be the worst person ever.
They also have some sort of animal tale on their antenna. Possibly a raccoon. Being as the Riverbottom Gang are animals, I’m guessing the presence of this tail also means they are murderers. You wouldn’t hang a human tail from your antenna would you?
Apparently EOJBC originally aired on HBO in 1977. I had no idea that HBO was that old. If you would have asked me last week, or ten minutes ago before I looked it up, when HBO came on the scene, I would have thought it was firmly in the 80’s. Like 1983 or so.
Also, I guess they didn’t just show movies, but actually had some really good stuff early on. EOJBC is only about a thousand times better than Entourage. But this explains why I never saw it as a kid. My parents couldn’t even get cable out where they lived until I had already moved out of the house.
Look at this set! How elaborate is that??? According to the Muppet wiki, EOJBC was the most technologically-advanced Muppet production to date, and included the most elaborate sets that Henson and Co. had ever produced. This overhead view of Frogtown Holler shows how large some of these sets were.
The first appearance of Emmet and his Ma comes right after a Robert Altman style “tracking-shot-with-lots-of-characters-doing-different-things”. Here we see Emmet and Ma rowing down the river, delivering the laundry that Ma has washed for money. There are a lot of little communities like this around here, they’re like little swampy redneck Viennas, where the streams and rivers are the roadways.
Ma and Emmet are singing as they row down the river, something you better get used to.
I guess now is as good a time as any to say that Ma’s singing voice grates on my nerves worse than two pieces of styrofoam being rubbed together. I also think that this special can be cheesy as hell at points. Just to get that out of zee way.
Remember when I said that the entire story of EOJBC could be summed up in a paragraph? Well, here it is, followed by pictures that breeze through the whole story like the Mucho Macho burrito from los tacos through my digestive tract.
Be wary, friends, the spoilers are ahead and they’re coming fast and furious:
Emmet Otter and his mom are poor. Ma washes clothes for a living while Emmet does odd jobs for folks around town. They find out about a talent show that offers a cash prize. Desiring to buy each other presents, they both enter the contest, unbeknownst to each other. Emmet knocks a hole in Ma’s washtub, thereby ending her career, so that he can start a Jug Band to enter the Contest with. Ma sells the tools that Emmet uses for his odd jobs in order to purchase fabric to make a nice dress to wear in the Contest (this makes no sense to me). Along the way, they get hassled by the Riverbottom Gang. In the end, both Ma and Emmet lose the talent show to the Riverbottom Gang who show up as a rock band called “the Nightmare”. After the show, Emmet and Ma sing together and the owner of a local restaurant, upon hearing them, hires them to be his house band, giving both of them a job. The End.
It sounds almost nihilistic that they don’t win in the end, and that the Riverbottom Gang never gets punished for their evil deeds, like a kid-friendly No Country for Old Men, but I guess in the end the message is that, even though they didn’t win the contest, their talent together got them a job. Or something like that. Now here’s the story, told in pictures:
Real quick, I wanted to point out how similar the talent contest in EOJBC is to the Muppet Show. It’s basically a zany variety show with acts like this “dancing horse”.
I forgot about this terrible closing song. I just can’t stand Ma’s voice, and she insists on singing every two seconds. I would enjoy EOJBC a lot more, it’d probably be about a 8 or 9 out of 10, if she didn’t force her warbly voice on us in every single scene.
Anyway, that’s it. I know I kinda breezed through it, but believe it or not, these 20-or-so screenshots took me almost all morning. I really need to practice my computering skills. I thought there was a final coda with Kermit in it, wrapping it all up for us, but there isn’t. It just ends with this song. Which sucks. To me.
I shouldn’t be so hard on Ma, I guess. She does the best she can. If I was a judge in the Talent Contest, I would have made the Nightmare number one (sorry to say it), the Jug Band in second, and the dancing rabbit act (shown below) in bronze.