Best to leave magical forest creatures in the forest.

Recently-divorced dad Ron Emmerson (Jay Harrington, Better Off Ted) takes his preteen kids Annie (Genevieve Buechner, The 100) and Tim (Graham Verchere) to the woods for an old-fashioned Thanksgiving with their aunt Cly (Mary Steenburgen, Back to the Future Part III). Once there, amid the divorce drama, the kids get caught up in a plot by a neighboring farmer trying to swindle Cly out of her land. Also, there are strange creatures in the woods.

This is an “only sort of” movie, in that the jokes are only sort of funny, the drama is only sort of heartwarming, the stakes are only sort of thrilling, and the creatures are only sort of magical. There was nothing that infuriated me, and it zipped right along so as not to be boring, but there’s also nothing distinguishable about it to set it apart from the countless other whimsical family movies out there.

The folks running the Henson empire have done a pretty good job of keeping the Muppets going in recent years, but something we haven’t seen as much of are the creatures—you know, the likes of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. That had me excited to see Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow, with the promise of new creatures. The creatures look decent, but not great. The real problem is how little they have to do. The plot is plucky kids outsmarting a greedy farmer in a shady real estate deal. The magical forest creatures spend most of the movie just watching this from the sidelines. You could cut them out and it would be the same movie.

Mary Steenburgen is clearly having fun wisecracking her way through the movie as the wacky aunt. The two kids have plenty of youthful enthusiasm, which is good. The rest of the cast are unremarkable, such as the dad who learns a valuable lesson and the buffoon villains. Then there’s Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Furious 7) as the narrator. He also feels like he’s in another movie, with a lot of break-the-fourth-wall jokes that don’t appear anywhere else.

Lionsgate’s DVD release offers a fine standard 1.78:1 widescreen transfer and Dolby 2.0 Stereo track, with a digital copy of the film as the only extra.

Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow wants to establish itself as a holiday classic, only based on Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. It’s so bland, I’d be awfully surprised if this ever becomes a yearly standard.

verdict

Guilty. Burble, Burble.

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