Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

muppettreasureisland

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It’s about time that I reviewed another Disney Muppets film! After adapting Charles Dickens’ famous Christmas tale, the Muppets are now tackling Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling adventure! Do I think this is an improvement over The Muppet Christmas Carol which I found to be fair, at best, or do I think this is a film that should have been buried along with the treasure? Read to find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The movie opens with an incredibly catchy and even somewhat dark song sequence entitled Shiver My Timbers.

It gives the backstory of the book, Treasure Island, showing us the story of the pirate Captain Flint and the treasure that he’s buried. Captain Flint has made a treasure map which shows the location of the treasure, but now that he’s dead, the map has been missing and nobody knows where it is.

How do we know this? Well, we know this from an ex-pirate named Billy Bones, played by Billy Connolly. He’s staying at an inn run by a Mrs. Bluebridge, played by Jennifer Saunders, which is visited by humans and Muppets alike. Every day, he’s telling the tale of Captain Flint to the people at the inn even though everyone’s pretty much memorized the story by now.

Every time I hear him talk, I wonder what King Fergus is doing amongst pirates!
Every time I hear him talk, I wonder what King Fergus is doing amongst pirates!

The tale catches the attention of a young boy who works at the inn, named Jim Hawkins, played by Kevin Bishop. He dreams of having a different, more adventurous life alongside his two Muppet friends, Gonzo and Rizzo. This dream is showcased in the song, Something Better.

 But, their dreams are put on hold when it’s discovered that some of Billy Bones’ old crewmates are coming to the inn in order to kill him. You see, Billy Bones was part of Captain Flint’s original crew and was the one who ran away with the treasure map, which is why he knew so much about the story. Unwilling to share the map with his crewmates, they are all now coming to kill him for it. He gives the map to young Jim before dying and warns Jim to beware a “one-legged man”. It’s not long after that Billy Bones dies and the crewmates ransack the inn. Luckily, Jim manages to escape with Gonzo and Rizzo and together they decide to go find the treasure themselves.

They ride into town the next morning and consult a Squire Trelawney, played by Fozzie Bear, to verify the authenticity of the treasure map as well as to supply them with a ship. He’s all for it and finances the voyage himself. But, he’s not as sane as you might think as he talks to a man he believes lives in his finger.

"Yeah, I'd love to challenge you to a game of thumb war, but I feel we'd be arrested for committing premeditated murder."
“Yeah, I’d love to challenge you to a game of thumb war, but I feel we’d be arrested for committing premeditated murder.”

Anyway, Jim and the gang trust Squire Trelawney and after a while, they’re ready to set sail aboard the Hispaniola. The crew has been picked for the journey and the captain is a Captain Smollett, played by Kermit the Frog.

"Who else were you expecting to play this part?"
“Who else were you expecting to play this part?”

Jim and the gang explore the ship and soon meet and befriend the cook, Long John Silver, played by the stellar Tim Curry. Long John Silver seems to be a nice enough man whom Jim very quickly takes to as a sort of father figure. But, when Jim finds out that Long John has one leg, he remembers the warning of the late Billy Bones.

"One of me legs is not like the other. One of me legs isn't the same. Can you tell me which is not like the other? Then you win the game!"
“One of me legs is not like the other. One of me legs isn’t the same. Can you tell me which leg is not like the other? Then you win the game!”

This puts Jim somewhat on his guard, but he’s also somewhat sure that Long John couldn’t possibly be whom Billy Bones was talking about. Anyway, the voyage is soon underway with a song entitled, Sailing for Adventure.

But, Captain Smollett is a bit worried about the apparent thug-like appearance of the crew and wonders who hired them. Squire Trelawney says that the Mr. Bimbo in his finger hired the crew on good advice from Long John Silver. This puts Captain Smollett to have a growing suspicion of Long John and the crew, but still goes ahead with the voyage.

As the voyage goes on, Long John and Jim start to bond and get more friendly. Long John uses this to his advantage and tries innocently to learn from Jim about the alleged treasure map that he and the crew have heard of. Jim doesn’t give anything away though, but he and Long John still maintain friends.

"I spy...something twinkling." "A star." "Good lad, your turn." "I spy...something bright." "A star." "You got it." "I spy...something in the distance." "A star." "Right again, lad!" "I'm guessing the next one is a star too."
“I spy…something twinkling.”
“A star.”
“Good lad, your turn.”
“I spy…something bright.”
“A star.”
“You got it.”
“I spy…something in the distance.”
“A star.”
“Right again, lad!”
“I’m guessing the next one is a star too.”

Not long after, Rizzo and Gonzo get kidnapped by three of the crewmen who taken them below decks to torture them to spill the beans about where the treasure map is. Thankfully, the three are caught and Captain Smollett confines them to the brig aboard the ship. He then takes Jim into his cabin and orders that Jim give him the treasure map for safekeeping. Jim acquiesces and Captain Smollett locks it away in his safe.

Long John soon learns about the map being in the safe and knows the keys are with the no-nonsense first mate, Mr. Arrow, played by Sam the Eagle. Thankfully, Mr. Arrow is a bit gullible and Long John convinces him to go test out a rowboat in open water to discover if it’s seaworthy. He offers to hold Mr. Arrow’s hat and keys for him to which Mr. Arrow accepts.

"Open sea...going boldly where no eagle has gone before...by rowboat, at least."
“Open sea…going boldly where no eagle has gone before…by rowboat, at least.”

Long John then frees the trio locked in the brig and order them to go steal the map the next day while Captain Smollett is mourns Mr. Arrow’s apparent death. The trio succeed in stealing the map, but Jim overhears them talking to Long John about planning to lay mutiny now that Captain Smollett has reached the treasure island. Jim rushes to tell the captain about all this and Captain Smollett subtly asks Long John to go ashore with the crew to explore the island. The captain’s plan is to maroon Long John and his crew on this island for a year and then pick them up afterwards when the fight is out of them.

But, Long John is suspicious about having all this “on a silver platter”, if you will. He has the treasure map and the captain is literally asking him to go on the island by themselves. It seems too good to be true, so he kidnaps Jim and takes him to the island with them putting a clink in Captain Smollett’s plans. It’s then that Captain Smollett, Gonzo, and Rizzo head to the island to save Jim and stop Long John. Unfortunately, they’re captured by some native indigenous pig tribe on the island led by a Benjamina Gunn, played by Miss Piggy.

Hey, I'll take a female Benjamina Gunn over Treasure Planet's B.E.N. any day!
Hey, I’ll take a female Benjamina Gunn over Treasure Planet‘s B.E.N. any day!

You see, she and Captain Smollett used to be a couple many years ago until he left her at the altar and she later was marooned on this island by Captain Flint and made leader of these pigs. She’s still quite angry with Captain Smollett for what he did to her, but he apologizes and tries to get them out of this predicament.

Meanwhile, Long John and his crew find that the treasure chests at the location on the map are empty. They then go to Benjamina demanding she tell them where the treasure is located. She gives up the location when Long John threatens Captain Smollett’s life.

"I can fit you in on the first Sunday of March. Would that be fine?"
“I can fit you in on the first Sunday of March. Would that be fine?”

The climax of the film has to do with all our good guys including Mr. Arrow (who reaches the island after rowing for as long as he’s been rowing for) and Jim (who has escaped the pirates’ clutches) having a big fight against the pirates resulting in the pirates’ defeat. Long John surrenders to Captain Smollett and the captain takes them all back on ship as prisoners. He also takes the treasure on board with him.

That night, Long John manages to break free and sneak away onto a rowboat with some of the treasure. Jim sees this, but allows Long John to go while saying that he never wants to see him again. Long John rows away, but the rowboat he’s chosen ends up being faulty and soon starts to sink resulting in Long John swimming towards the treasure island once again. As for Jim, Rizzo, and Gonzo, well, it’s safe to assume that they’ll continue having adventures together.

"Here's to the sequel that we'll never make!"
“Here’s to the sequel that we’ll never make!”

And that’s Muppet Treasure Island! Although some people may disagree with me, I think it is a better film than The Muppet Christmas Carol!

The film is just made very well trying to adapt a classic tale to fit Muppets standards. It’s a joy seeing how they can get all the Muppets into the film as well as seeing which roles they cast them in. Fozzie Bear fits as the squire, Kermit obviously is meant to be the captain, Miss Piggy would have to be a female Benjamin Gunn, etc.

Even the Swedish Chef makes an appearance.
Even the Swedish Chef makes an appearance!

muppettreasureislandhowelse

The performances by the Muppets performers are too amazing to praise, as always! And Tim Curry plays the part of Long John Silver amazingly! He plays it like if it were a delicious meal and he’s enjoying every single bite that he takes! The only problem that I might have with the acting is that I didn’t think Kevin Bishop was all that great an actor. I know he was young at the time, but I don’t think I would have commended his performance. Take a look at him now:

One of the biggest problems that I had with The Muppet Christmas Carol was that I thought it failed as a musical. I didn’t think many of the songs were memorable or even all that well-written. However, I feel this movie really captures the musical aspect! Most of the songs in this movie are memorable, catchy, and have well-written lyrics and music. Even songs that literally have no point to them, like Cabin Fever, are a joy to watch and listen to!

Summing up, I really enjoyed this film and wish that the Muppets would adapt more classic tales on a theatrical level again! I, for one, would definitely enjoy it…I think!

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)

muppettreasureislandrating

So, the final score for this film is 30/35 = 85.71% (B) !

The next review will be posted on February 15th.

23 thoughts on “Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

  1. Yes, I think agree with you that this one is better than the Muppet Christmas Carol (which I don’t remember very well, which might be part of the problem with the film). But Muppet Treasure Island is so much fun…especially those songs! Great review!

  2. Yeah, I also think that it is better than the Christmas Carol (whose songs I mostly can’t stand, and I don’t think that Scrooge is well-casted at all). This one works better, though I would naturally prefer a serious adaptation of the book any day.

      1. That is hard because so far, there hasn’t been one I consider perfect….but the one which comes the closest (in: It doesn’t actually change that much from the story) and has easily the best Long John Silver is, imho, the version with Orson Welles. Strangely it is barely known…I admit, it does have some weaknesses, especially in the pacing, but it does a really good job in taking the most heart-stopping moments from the book, it leaves the dubious character of Long John Silver intact (something most adaptation don’t do!) and it is really well acted. Some might consider it boring because it is pretty much a one-to-one adaptation (it leaves some details out, but what is in it is mostly directly from the book, down to the dialogues), but I take that over unnecessary action scenes any day. The only thing which angers me is that it lacks the scene in which the doctor visits the pirates – it is not strictly necessary for the story, but it is such a great tense moment in the book.

        Another adaptation which is basically treasure Island in Space is an Italian production…the German title is “Der Schatz im All”…the first two episodes (there are six overall) are a little bit too drawn out for my taste, but once it gets going, it is very creative while keeping the main points of the story.

      2. The scene happens after Jim has been captured by the pirates. In the book, the doctor turns up everyday to treat the pirates for malaria and other illnesses as part of the peace treaty. Before the pirates start to search for the treasure, he has the opportunity to speak to Jim, who tells him where the ship is hidden. I always liked the scene because it is so surreal on the one hand, and very tense on the other hand.

  3. As not a big Treasure Island fan this is actually my favorite version. I really enjoy it and love Tim Curry! (I do disagree with you on Christmas Carol though).

      1. It’s tough to say. I really like the original Muppet movie and then Follow that Bird, Muppets in Space, Muppets, Muppets in Manhattan, are all great. I also like some of the darker films like Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. They are so amazing!

      2. I hated Muppets in Manhattan and thought the Dark Crystal was the most boring movie I’d ever seen in my life, lol!

        I haven’t seen Follow that Bird or Muppets in Space yet.

        I liked Labyrinth though. Young Jennifer Connolly, Muppets, David Bowie bad guy, what’s not to like?

      3. But if I had to pick I think Christmas Carol would be the one I’d pick because I really love the music and I’m a Christmas Carol junkie.

  4. I love this movie! It’s got Muppets, based on a fun story, and even Star Trek references 😉 I’m a big fan of Christmas Carol too, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Christmas films so that’s probably a big part of the reason why.

  5. While I prefer ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ and overall consider it a better film, I do really like ‘Muppet Treasure Island’ for the quirky way it adapts ‘Treasure Island’ and all kinds of jokes up its sleeve. It actually kinda gets overlooked from time to time. I think my favourite song has to be “Shiver My Timbers” – its so catchy, dark and quintessentially piratey that even the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequels wished they could be this awesome! Easily, Tim Curry is a great highlight as Long John Silver, he’s like a living muppet, it’s crazy!

  6. Believe it or not, this was actually the first feature-length Muppet-related movie I ever saw (unless you count the 1985 SESAME STREET film FOLLOW THAT BIRD). Not only that, but it also happens to be among my personal favorites, along with THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979), THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, and THE MUPPETS (2011).

  7. I noticed that the caption to the first screencap featuring Silver seems to mirror the lyrics to “One of These Things,” the old sorting song from SESAME STREET. Accident, or design?

  8. MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is often described as being Rizzo the Rat’s “big break,” but I personally think that it’s in MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND that he really shines.

    On a tangentially related note, while I know that Matt Vogel is the new performer of Kermit (and Peter Linz has apparently taken over for Statler), I can’t help but wonder whether we’ll get to see Rizzo again*, now that Steve Whitmire’s gone, or if the character will never be used again. (I hope that the latter scenario doesn’t turn out to be the case; Rizzo’s one of my favorite MUPPET SHOW characters…)

    *I’ve heard from Muppet fans around the ‘Net that Peter Linz is slated to fill in, but until the guys at Disney confirm or deny this, I’ll take this claim with a grain of salt.

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