Muppet Mayhem (Part 6): Muppet Treasure Island

In the continuing trend of the Muppets adapting classic literature, the Muppets got their hands on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate story and did what the Muppets do best, create exceptionally controlled and hilarious chaos.

Billy Bones (Billy Connolly) tells Jim Hawkins and his friends, Gonzo and Rizzo, about the legendary treasure of Captain Flint and to be wary of the one-legged-man at the Admiral Benbow Inn. When the Inn is attacked by pirates for the map to Treasure Island that Billy Bones has, he gives the map to Jim and tells him to run. The Admiral Benbow burns to the ground in the distance as Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo set off to find a ship and a crew to find the treasure. The insane Squire Trelawney (Fozzie Bear) and his assistants, Dr. Livesey (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew) and Beaker, sponsor the trip by getting a ship, the Hispaniola, and a crew. The three eventually meet the ship’s cook, Long-John Silver (Tim Curry), and they all become fast friends (despite the fact that Billy Bones told them to be wary of the one-legged-man) as the captain, Captain Abraham Smollet (Kermit the Frog) and Mr. Arrow (Sam the Eagle). They all set off from port for an adventure on the seas until the mutinous pirate crew that crewed the Hispaniola tears the ship apart to get the map and the treasure.

Tim Curry’s Long-John Silver, like Michael Caine’s Ebenezer Scrooge, is pitch perfect. He is able to easily and effectively manipulate the audience to feel whatever they need to feel from his immense acting prowess. If you are acting against the strong character of the Muppets, your performance needs to be overblown if you want to be noticed, and Tim Curry not only gets noticed, but he actively stands out within this movie. Kevin Bishop (Jim), on the other hand, is rather terrible and kind of ruins most of the scenes he is in when he opens his pre-pubescent mouth.

This is honestly one of the funniest Muppet movies out there. The comedy is piled on really heavy throughout with running jokes throughout, but unlike the jokes in the Muppet Movie, a large number of the running jokes usually only last for a scene rather than throughout the entire film (jokes like Mrs. Bluveridge’s, the owner of the Admiral Benbow, omniscient ability to yell something consistently relevant to the situation). This allows the jokes to be much more personal in nature and they never go on for longer than they stop being funny. The movie is also a return to form for the meta humour, with Rizzo commenting on how people dying is something you don’t usually see in a children’s movie, and commenting on the existence of musical numbers and there are plenty of anachronisms purely for the sake of a joke.

Unlike the Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island is not nearly as close to the original source material. They take a lot more liberties with characters in order to fit the Muppets into the different roles and they don’t always work. Some events also happen differently, such as Mr. Arrow staying alive in the film instead of dying like he does in the book. Some of the changes make the film a bit more entertaining and incredibly sillier than the book. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as the Muppet’s natural habitat (besides a Studebaker) is comedy, not drama.

The songs are not overall as memorable as the songs from the Muppet Christmas Carol, but the score more than makes up for it. Hans Zimmer does the score this time around and he brings his usual overblown bombastic-ness to the pirate-y score. It honestly sounds like a proto-Pirates of the Caribbean score in a number of places, which really isn’t a bad thing. The songs “Cabin Fever” and “Professional Pirate” are the real stand-outs in the film and the only one that really doesn’t work is Jim’s “Something Better”, but that’s more because of Kevin Bishop’s irritating voice than it is because it’s a bad song. Tim Curry’s “Professional Pirate” is great as it follows the same train of thought as the rest of his performance, over-sell everything.

Muppet Treasure Island is a very entertaining film, but it’s not the best adaptation of Treasure Island out there. The story is not very strong in places and the songs are somewhat weak throughout, but the writing is top notch and it makes the experience altogether more pleasurable. You should definitely watch Muppet Treasure Island, but only if you want to see a funny version of the classic Treasure Island story.

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