Thursday, 8 November 2018

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

It's very hard for me to now look at Muppet Treasure Island and wonder why I didn't enjoy it so much when I first saw it. The presence of Kevin Bishop aside, who is at least much more bearable as a child actor as he is in adult form, this is a typically enjoyable Muppety adventure, based on the famous tale by Robert Louis Stevenson. The worst thing I can say about it is that it isn't The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Kevin Bishop plays young Jim Hawkins, a boy who ends up in receipt of a treasure map that he then takes on board a ship, The Hispaniola. The crew seem like a decent lot, especially that charming fellow named Long John Silver (played by Tim Curry), but there's mutiny and plundering in the air. And a small dose of cabin fever.

Brian Henson is credited as director, although there seems to have been a lot of work done by David Lane, and three writers put the script together, giving audiences the standard mix of fun characters, gags, and musical moments. The songs here may not be as memorable as some, there's only one that I can remember right now (to do with the aforementioned cabin fever), but they're serviceable enough and interspersed sparingly throughout the proceedings.

Bishop isn't as annoying as some child actors, which is a plus, and Curry adds another excellent performance to his CV with his portrayal of Silver. There are also small roles for Billy Connolly and Jennifer Saunders, both fun to watch even if they're only onscreen during the first quarter of the film. As for the Muppets, you get most of the usual suspects: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rizzo The Rat, Sam The Eagle, Dr Bunsen and Beaker, and the grumpy old fellas who comment on what's going on (Statler and Waldorf). Another point against the film, however, is the fact that they're not given as much screentime as they get in other films. Miss Piggy, for example, appears onscreen about 20-25 minutes before the very end, while both Kermit and Fozzie are given lead roles that still somehow leave them feeling like minor players in this tale (because the focus is always on the main human characters).

Okay, having started with such optimism, I can now remember why I didn't love this the first time around. It's all down to the fact that there's more time spent with humans than Muppets, or so it seems, and there's a distinct lack of really memorable moments. Which still doesn't make this a terrible movie. It just stops it from being one of the better Muppet movies.


The movie is available in this set here.
Americans can get the movie here.

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