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David G. Hillier
Emmet Otter and his Ma are dirt-poor, but very happy and good singers. But as Christmas is around the corner, both of them want to get something special for each other. And the talent show prize is $50! So, Ma gets a song ready, and Emmet forms a jug-band with his friends. But the Riverbottom Gang, a bunch of rich kids with killer electric band equipment are going to be tough competition.Written by
The DVD release has some footage removed from the original print of the movie such as...
When talking to Gretchen Fox, Ma Otter tells her "I would really appreciate it if you'd...fall off the dock." This part is edited out.
When Ma and Emmett are rowing home in the boat some dialogue is cut before the "ain't no hole in the washtub" song. Ma says, "Oh there ain't no hole in the washtub, that's your basic keeping warm while you're rowing home song." Emmett says. "I'm rowing, where's the singing?" This part is completely removed.
Originally, after the hedgehog finishes mangling "Barbecue", Harrison Fox says to the stage manager, "Better get ready. We're off to a shaky start." (I don't remember the exact line, but that's close.) Then it fades to black, fading up on Fox finding the jug band in the alley (suggesting a passage of time).
Second, the DVD version cuts Kermit's final narration in Doc Bullfrog's restaurant.
This year was the 28th annual showing of Emmett Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas (EOJBC) at my parents' home. It's our family Chanuka tradition! I was very happy to read all of the other glowing reviews of EOJBC. All of the characters are so great. My dad's favorite character is Wendel, and his lines, "Let's see...half a fifty cents, half a fifty cents..." and "Golly, you got mashed potatoes?!" My sisters and I all love to hate Gretchen Fox, (we wish she WOULD fall off the dock). And while we're on the subject of ol' Gretchen, does anyone else find it just a little convenient that she is one of the talent contest judges who casts her vote AGAINST the jugband and Ma? There's also that crotchety Old Lady Possum who micro-managerially watches Wendel and Emmet rebuild (NOT repair) her fence with her broom in hand, cawing, "Don't just stand around, boys! Ya got WORK to do!" I love the snake when he says to Chuck, "Geez, a guy should be grateful he's got shoulders!" and the bug-eyed fish when he condescendingly spits at the man in the street, "Oh, so sorry!Pbbfft!!"
As many times as I've seen EOJBC, I never tire of it. The scene in the ORIGINAL version with George and Melissa Rabbit's talent performance (gotta love those jazz paws!) absolutely trips me out to this day! I laugh so hard I cry! It was a crime that their scene was scrapped when the movie came out on cassette. Thankfully, that scene is back in on the DVD, but Kermit is gone. I wish the big companies would just put aside the copyrights for a while and reissue a DVD of the original version of EOJBC as it was first shown on HBO, complete with Kermit the Frog and George and Melissa Rabbit's stellar performance. I bet there are a lot of viewers out there who have no idea that George and Melissa were even there! In the version that cuts out their scene, you can still hear their music in the background as Harrison Fox is telling the jugband to get back inside before they miss their curtain call.
Not only are the characters fully developed with great personalities, but there are some great one-liners in the script. Will Possum closes the curtain after the first act, Carrots the Dancing Horse, makes a memorable exit Stage Left AND Right. Pulling the cords, Will drolly says, "It's gonna be a loooooong night," and shakes his head. Ever the gracious hostess, Alice "Ma" Otter welcomes Hetty Muskrat into her home to use the spinning wheel Ma keeps borrowing from her. As she holds a tea kettle in her hands, Ma looks around frantically and asks, "Now, where'd I put that teapot?" We are trying (unsuccessfully as of yet) to get my 4 year old niece to watch it, but she hasn't shown much interest yet. Maybe next year.
Paul Williams is a masterful songwriter and composer (Mr. Big Time Conductor, to quote Harvey). If you like his style, I highly recommend Bugsy Malone (1976), the all-kid casted gangster movie starring Scott Baio and Jodie Foster.
If you have any inclination to watch this movie, go for it. You will not be disappointed!
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