Review: ‘Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree’

As we are told by narrator Kermit the Frog, everyone, from the tall to the small, is searching for the perfect tree. Mr. Willowby (an overly smirky Robert Downey Jr.) needs an evergreen for his party, as does the family of mice that lives under his house.

As we are told by narrator Kermit the Frog, everyone, from the tall to the small, is searching for the perfect tree. Mr. Willowby (an overly smirky Robert Downey Jr.) needs an evergreen for his party, as does the family of mice that lives under his house.

As Pa Mouse introduces his family to the tree tradition, Mr. Willowby’s lumberjacks chop down their chosen conifer, carrying the mice off with them.

Then, the tree’s top gets progressively smaller as it travels from hand to hand. Everyone resizes it to make the perfect tree.

Kids should enjoy the Muppet mouse kids, who are spirited and curious. And Leslie Nielsen makes a good impression as Willowby’s crusty butler. But forgettable songs are a bit much for Downey and Stockard Channing, and Downey swallows his dialogue of invented words. Kermit adds a touch of class.

Tech credits are merely OK.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

(Wed. (6), 8:30-9 p.m., CBS)

Production

Taped in Los Angeles by Jim Henson Prods. in association with TN Entertainment. Exec producer, Michael Frith; producer, Ritamaria Peruggi; director, Jon Stone; writer, Mitchell Kreigman, based on the book by Robert Barry.

Crew

Camera, Tony Cutrano; technical director, Tom Guadarama; editor, David Gumpel; production designer, Val Strazovec; choreographer, Diane Arnold; music and lyrics, Michael and Patty Silversher.

Cast

Performers: Bill Barretta, Julianne Buescher, Kevin Clash, Bruce Lanoil, David Rudman, Steve Whitmire. The quest for the perfect Christmas tree drives this holiday spec, which combines Muppet mice with hammy humans in an admirable message of tolerance for others' holiday traditions. But "Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree" reaches for too wide an audience, mixing highfalutin language with cutesy characters, and ends up a mishmash.
With: Robert Downey Jr., Leslie Nielsen, Stockard Channing, Kermit the Frog. Muppet
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