Muppet Treasure Island (1996)


Rated: G
Length:  99 min.
Age: 4 and up.           Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: usual pirate fight scenes, though no blood; pirate attack on tavern a little alarming (though interjected with funny business)

Also: human character dies at beginning of heart attack, after drinking excessively (no drunken muppets though)

Interests: pirates, ships, muppets, adventure

Next: The Muppet Show TV series, or movies: The Muppet Movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol, etc.

Good fun all around. An extremely irreverent take on the old story, but retaining a little of the scary stuff, particularly at the beginning, with Billy Connolly chewing up the scenery as Billy Bones: “Rum! I must have rum! I’ve got the horrors!”  When he suddenly expires Rizzo the Rat exclaims “He died?! And this is supposed to be a kid’s movie!”

There’s a pretty cheesy song at the beginning – very Disney – sung over-earnestly by human Jim Hawkins character before he, Gonzo and Rizzo set off on their adventure. After that, it’s pretty much all silliness. There’s some nice gritty pirate-speak, and crew members like Dead Tom and Headless Bill. When they all get cabin fever there’s a mambo/disco sequence, with all the rats in Hawaiian garb, since they’ve been sold the trip as a pleasure cruise.

Kermit is given the dignified role of Captain and Tim Curry happily hams it up as Long John Silver, and said in many interviews afterward that it was his all-time favourite role. (According to imdb.com, both David Bowie and Mick Jagger were considered to play the pirate.) Being an all-male story, one wonders how they will fit Miss Piggy in… Strangely enough, there’s a tribe of pigs on the island, and in a scene reminiscent of old RKO 1940s musicals, Miss Piggy makes her grand entrance on the back of an elephant. She is of course Kermit’s abandoned love interest, and immediately karate chops him into a gong.

The plot rambles along from there. Skeletons hang from a tree as it’s implied that Flint killed his crew when he buried the treasure, but this is all backstory and not actually seen. Somehow the fact that nearly everyone, skeletons included, are foamy puppets serves to significantly reduce the scary factor.

One caveat – the movie assumes audience familiarity with the muppet characters, which may not be true of youngsters who have never seen The Muppet Show. (Hard to imagine, I know.) They may miss a few of the jokes as a result, but it’s still pretty funny and entertaining for all.

A last bit of trivia, courtesy of imdb.com (sourced May 4, 2011):

Hormel Foods Corporation, makers of Spam, sued the film production company for making the name of a warthog character “Spa’am”. Their suit was defeated on September 22, 1995. The judge noted that “one might think Hormel would welcome the association with a genuine source of pork.”

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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