Muppet Treasure Island
An amiable Muppet caper, Treasure Island doesn’t quite score the bullseye of Disney’s previous take on a literary classic (The Muppet Christmas Carol) but lassoes a perfect Long John Silver in the gleefully game form of Tim Curry (“Upstage, lads. This is my only number”).
Things don’t look promising when a young Kevin Bishop (as Jim Hawkins) breaks into song during the first five minutes. Fortunately, such antics are kept to a minimum, as the songs are less than outstanding (although Cabin Fever is amusing). If there’s one aspect 2011’s The Muppets got very right, it was the tunes. I don’t fully buy into the idea that it was the much-needed salvation of the characters (mainly because it was only so-so), although I may be neglecting the evidence of two poorly-received TV movies during the early ’00s. At any rate, on the big screen only Muppets from Space was a bit of a turkey; all the other films did solid business (the only one to go through the roof is the first, The Muppet Movie).
By most accounts, I’m fortunate not to have been subjected to Bishop’s recent reinvention as comedian; to be fair to him, he’s reasonably inoffensive here. Jennifer Saunders appears in a padded outfit that suggests someone meant to cast the other one from French & Saunders. Billy Connolly leaves you wanting more, and has an amusing couple of scenes as Billy Bones (“He died? And this is supposed to be a kids’ movie”) – recipient of the Black Splot.
As usual, there are numerous sight gags (a copy of Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger is found in Billy Bones’ bag) and instances of fourth-wall breaking (Statler and Waldorf reside on the prow of Kermit’s (Captain Smollett’s) ship (“Well, it could be worse. We could be in the audience”, “Well, it was too late to save the movie!”). I particularly liked Blind Pew’s reconfiguration as one of a number of “Pew” creatures.
Rizzo: He’s some kind of blind fiend!
Gonzo: I believe they prefer “visually challenged” fiend.
Sam the Eagle’s insistence that Kermit is afflicted by a seething temper and will blow it any moment is an amusing running gag, but Kermit and Piggy are sidelined on this occasion (Kermit has a memorable, hideously snouted portrait of Miss Piggy on his wall or, rather, of Benjamina Gunn). Brian Henson’s direction is straightforward, embracing the staginess rather than attempting to disguise it, but there’s a slight feeling of coasting it to the “stick the Muppets in well-known story” approach.