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  Muppet Treasure Island Avast, Ye Swabs, I'll Kermit-Haul The Lot Of Ye
Year: 1996
Director: Brian Henson
Stars: Tim Curry, Kevin Bishop, Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta, John Henson, Frank Oz, Danny Blackner, Harry Jones, David Nicholls, Frederick Warder, Peter Geeves, Nigel Plaskitt
Genre: Musical, Comedy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 3 votes)
Review: Legend has it that Captain Flint had a hoard of treasure which he buried on a Caribbean isle, then turned his guns on those who buried it for him so that nobody would know its precise location, leaving only a treasure map behind him so enable its owner to track down the gold and jewels as he himself had suffered an untimely demise shortly afterwards. The patrons of this tavern know the story well, because Billy Bones (Billy Connolly) regales them with it almost every night, and nobody truly believes there's much truth in it, until one night one of the servants, young Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) opens the door to a mysterious figure who is searching for that map...

The death of Jim Henson dealt a blow to The Muppets that could have ended them for good, but they commanded such affection that the remaining brains behind the franchise decided not to allow the productions to dwindle into nothing and The Muppet Christmas Carol was a welcome hit, proving to them that they could still bring in an audience. So it was that this film, a spoof on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, was concocted as the follow up, but this time the grumblings that might have brought down the Dickens adaptation but did not were directed here. It still found its fans, but there were fewer who thought they had really accomplished an unqualified success.

In truth, Muppet Treasure Island was not a total disaster, and the team knew the amount of goodwill felt towards their characters helped paper over the cracks of a script that while it sounded like a fair enough idea, simply did not tickle the funnybone in the way the Muppets' previous outings had. Working against its success was the fact that aside from Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, the famed puppets came across as guest stars in their own movie instead of the actual guest stars, who included Connolly (getting about five minutes before he expires), Jennifer Saunders (getting even less screen time) and the real casting coup, Tim Curry as a Long John Silver to relish.

While Connolly and Saunders filled the roles of visiting celebrity as so many famous faces had before, Curry was more in the line of Michael Caine in Christmas Carol, tending to dominate the scenes he was in - and he was in quite a few. It's hard to upstage a Muppet, but he managed it, patently throroughly enjoying himself and entering into the spirit of the thing, yet curiously pretty much playing it straight rather than going way over the top for prime, eye-rolling ham. Speaking of ham, Miss Piggy (Frank Oz) was there too, but like too many of her non-human co-stars was given not much to do, and barely appeared until the final half hour when the cast eventually reach the island of the title.

The Muppets' strongest suit was always their daft sense of humour, but here the lines they were offered may have been silly, but they were not too funny. That's not to say there aren't any laughs, there certainly are, but the sense of being constrained by the classic plot tended to hem in any wild flights of comic fancy. They did seem to spend an awful lot of time on that ship as well, with Kermit the Frog as Captain Smollet and Sam Eagle his second in command, both valuable characters but really not offered enough to make them seem essential. This was a musical, but the bland songs given to them by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were not the best material they were ever offered, and it was very strange hearing Kermit and Miss Piggy crooning a sincere ballad to each other in those voices. Nowadays, comedy fans have the novelty of seeing Kevin Bishop before he made his name as a comedian, and he's fine here, but no better than anybody else, who are also at that ho-hum level. Music by Hans Zimmer.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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