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Film Review: Muppet Treasure Island
In 1996, Brian Henson released Muppet Treasure Island, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Treasure Island, as the fifth feature film to star the Muppets. Starring Kevin Bishop, Tim Curry, Jennifer Saunders, Bill Connolly, Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, The Great Gonzo, Sweetums, Statler and Waldorf, the film grossed $34.3 million at the Box Office. Not only did the film spawn a video game, but there was a lawsuit surrounding it by the Hormel Foods Corporation because of the name Spa’am for a character. It was dismissed for failure to prove damages.
Jim Hawkins and his friends Gonzo and Rizzo are warned of a legendary pirate captain and the treasure that he hid. But after their employer’s inn is burned down by the captain’s crew, the treasure map ends up in Jim’s possession so they set sail on the Hispaniola to find the treasure.
Muppet Treasure Island is one of the funniest Muppets films that have come out of the franchise, utilizing a lot of the darker points of Treasure Island to their humorous advantage. In doing so, the film is quite a bit darker than other Muppet films, with some characters dying, getting tortured, delivering threats, drinking, falling overboard and even the first song with talks about greed, murder, and alcoholism and even references Satan. But even with the somewhat darker tone, the Muppets are able to counteract it with some great comedy. Take the torture scene with Rizzo and Gonzo, the latter is getting racked, but he not only stretches much to the perpetrators’ disbelief, but he enjoys it and evens says he can join the NBA. It even leads to a scene where Dr. Bunsen and Beaker shrink him down by using what they call the “window curtain” method. There’s also the death of Dead Tom, but it’s not much of a death because as soon as he’s mourned, it’s pointed out that he’s always been dead. Cue the skeleton being discarded without any flair. Billy Bones also dies early on in the film and not only does it lead to some humor, it leads to one of the fourth wall breaks the Muppets are known for.
The fourth wall breaks start early and keep going, but aren’t used too much to overstay their welcome. The first one is quite good where Rizzo yells about Billy Bones’ death and the fact that they’re in a kid’s movie. And during the song, there’s a quick line where one of the singers mentions getting his hands on whoever wrote the script along with Long John Silver calling “Professional Pirate” his “only number.” There’s also the rat tourists being told they’re on location for the movie, and actually name the film. But none of these bring Statler ad Waldorf into play and while they don’t have a lot of screentime because they’re the masthead of the ship, they still do what they do rather well, stating that the only worse thing about being stuck on the front of the ship is being stuck in the audience and that they saved Kermit and Benjamina because it was too late to save the movie.
The characters of the film are also pretty good, even the characters who don’t spend very long in the film. While Jim Hawkins is your average Jim Hawkins who spends the film acting like every other Jim Hawkins, this film’s Long John Silver stands out, namely because of his portrayal by Tim Curry, who’s able to take the standards of the character and make them his. It’s obvious he’s annoyed at almost every other character except Jim, seen when he’s guilting the other pirates about using a page of the bible for the black spot, rolling his eyes when they’re trying to plead for forgiveness. Also, gender-flipping Ben Gunn as Benjamina, played by Miss Piggy is also interesting, making her an old flame of Kermit, Long John Silver and Flint. Further, this is the only adaptation of the novel to let Mr. Arrow live and doing so helps to continue in the fun when Sam the Eagle gives his usual deadpan delivery as a fake ghost.
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