By Adam Donato
Let’s establish something right from the start: There is no bad Muppet movie — even the lesser entries in the franchise. The lowest Rotten Tomatoes score belongs to Muppets From Space at 63%, followed by Muppet Treasure Island at 73%. Absolute insanity. The nineties were great because they just decided to make Gonzo the most featured character, rivaling even Kermit for screen time. While Treasure Island isn’t a whole movie about him, like Muppets From Space, it is akin to The Muppet Christmas Carol wherein he is constantly with the lead cracking jokes, always, of course, accompanied by his best pal, Rizzo The Rat. Muppet Treasure Island is special because every Muppet movie has Muppets, but only one Muppet movie has Tim Curry.
The Muppets are known for having celebrity guest talent in everything they do. Standouts include Michael Caine and Jason Segel, but nobody comes close to how at home Tim Curry feels in Muppet Treasure Island. He’s so animated, he makes the Muppets look life-like. By the way, who doesn’t love a great villain that enjoys being evil? Curry absolutely nails Long John Silver in a way that some adaptations can’t live up to. He’s so charismatic and hammy in a way that almost makes you want to root for him. The most essential aspect of the Treasure Island story is the relationship between Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver. It’s complex because you can tell that Jim is simultaneously vibing with Silver, but can be intimidated on a dime as Silver manipulates him throughout the movie. Their final standoff at the end of the movie is a testament to how well built up their relationship was and how important it is to have an actor seriously commit to such a comical role. While perfectly balancing between threatening villain and comedic genius, his song "Professional Pirate" is an absolute banger and just might be the best in the movie.
Speaking of the songs, Muppet Treasure Island does a great job living up to its predecessors by having some very memorable musical numbers. As stated, "Professional Pirate" is a great villain song, but the crown jewel of the movie is "Love Led Us Here". Kermit and Piggy are hanging off the edge of a cliff tied to a rope that is being slowly lit on fire as they sing about the silver lining to their ultimate demise, they are reunited. All the while, Silver and company celebrate discovering the treasure as if they just won the Super Bowl. One of the most fun sequences in the movie is when the crew gets "Cabin Fever". It’s zanny and wacky fun in a way that only the Muppets can pull off. "Shiver My Timbers" does a good job setting the darker tone for a children’s movie that is not shy about death. "Something Better" is a solid “I want” song from Jim, Rizzo, and Gonzo. Of course, "Sailing for Adventure" is the premiere whole-cast number, where everybody on the Hispaniola gets a chance to shine.
The humor in this movie is simultaneously darker and dumber than previous Muppets content. As stated before, Rizzo breaks the fourth wall to acknowledge Billy Connolly as the first character to die in a Muppet movie. On the other end of the spectrum, Fozzie Bear has a man living in his finger named Mr. Bimbo, who has been to the moon twice. Even Frank Oz took awhile to come around on that joke. Speaking of dark humor, this is where Sam Eagle shines. Interestingly enough, this is the first Muppet movie where he plays a prominent role, which is great as he acts as a good foil to the chaos of the Muppets.
As an adaptation, it’s a very faithful movie. It understands what the core of the story is about and puts its best player right in the center of all the action. For a genre that is dead (Nobody tell Johnny Depp!), Muppet Treasure Island shines as another entry in the pirate genre. A balanced sense of humor, an array of different musical numbers, and Tim Curry are the main ingredients to this recipe for success. The 25 year anniversary is a perfect reason to check this one out again, for you can never go wrong with the Muppets.
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The Snake Hole
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