There are a lot of elements to Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow that feel as comfortable as an old shoe, though about about as fresh as one, too. Still, the relentlessly cute creatures on display make up for a lot. The Lifetime movie spins a Thanksgiving yarn about a fractured family, where divorced dad Ron (Jay Harrington) drags his kids Annie (Genevieve Buechner) and Tim (Graham Verchere) to the tiny town of Turkey Hollow to reconnect. There, Ron’s hippie (but tough) Aunt Cyd (Mary Steenburgen) takes them in and ends up guiding them through the horror of not having cell reception.
When there is no TV or data roaming, one has no choice in a musty old house other than to explore, which leads Tim to find evidence that his deceased great-uncle actually laid eyes upon Turkey Hollow’s own terrifying Sasquatch, the fabled “Howling Hoodoo.” Frightened and fascinated, Tim sets out to find the Hoodoo himself, and in the process, accidentally lets 175 of the town’s famed turkeys loose, with his Aunt left to foot the bill.
All of this setup is boilerplate and dutifully saccharine, but once the monsters come on the scene things pick up considerably. The quadruplets of Squonk, Burble, Zorp, and Thring are unabashedly the movie’s stars, as a musical group of squirrel-esque dog-like creatures who are both somewhat grotesque and unrelentingly adorable. From there, Turkey Hollow plays with a kid-friendly evil henchman plot that revolves around hormone-injected turkeys and an allergic reaction to feathers, but soon, any scene that doesn’t involve some aspect of magic begins to feel unnecessary.
Whatever missteps the plotting and actual narrative make in Turkey Hollow are more than made up for by its lovable creatures, though, whose magical forest realm we only briefly get to investigate. Further, the casting of Chris Bridges, a.k.a. Ludacris, as the movie’s narrator is a neat trick, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with him, and his inclusion — which could have made the special really stand out — instead is mostly awkward.
Mostly though, Turkey Hollow is just fine. It’s family-friendly and has enough humor and delight to potentially appeal to anyone gathered around the TV over Thanksgiving. The cast is cute and likable, and a romantic subplot for the older set is a unique change of pace. Mainly, the practical effects are refreshing, as is the silly gibberish the little monsters spew out. Aunt Cyd wants Ron to believe in magic, and ultimately, that’s something Jim Henson’s creature shop always achieves with aplomb.
Rating: ★★★ Fine family frippery
Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow premieres on Lifetime Saturday, November 21st.