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Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
Directed by: Brian Henson
Starring: Tim Curry, Billy Connolly, Kevin Bishop
Running Time: 1 h 39 m
TMM Score: 4 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Humor, Innocence, Fun, Music, Story
WEAKNESSES: Not As Tight As Other Muppet Movies
The Muppets embark on a quest to Treasure Island.
This review will not in any way objective; this was one of my favorite films as a child, and even as I started this movie up (for the first time on Blu Ray, not a VHS tape), I could feel a touch of excitement as the first song began. I found myself remembering bits and pieces of the songs and some of the gags. But it was the second song that really got me. When the song “There’s Gotta Be Something Better,” started, I found actual tears of nostalgia began to well up in my eyes and chills ran through me for almost the entirety of the song. To say that this review is objective would be a complete and utter lie. Watching this movie brings back many memories of my childhood, but it’s more than that. This is a film that meant so much to my childhood that if it were up to me, this movie would be passed down through my family’s generations. So… if you’re expecting a objective review, sorry… my views on this film are ridiculously swayed in one direction.
"There's Gotta Be Something Better..."
Above all else, Muppet Treasure Island is a movie meant for children, and it succeeds in being a humorous, adventure filled hour and forty minutes that should entertain any child, but it does more than that. This is a film that teaches children to reach for something greater, to not settle for what’s right in front of them, to be adventurous even in their daily life, and to always strive to do what’s right, even when your friends are doing something wrong. It’s a film that touches on so many important themes and lessons and morals, but it does it in a way that never feels didactic or boring. The main reason for this story being so full of great material is that it comes from a great source. Robert Louis Stevenson remains today one of the greatest adventure novelists to ever grace our planet, and Treasure Island was one of his best. It’s a story that has captured imaginations for the last hundred and thirty-five years, and it’ll continue to inspire and captivate for years to come. It’s a story that has been told and retold in cinemas over and over again- from more traditional retellings, like Treasure Island (1950) to more fantastical adaptations like Treasure Planet (2002). The film is full of things that would capture a young boy’s (or girl’s) imagination; pirates and sailors, swords and swashbuckling, betrayals and mutiny, and hidden treasure most of all. This movie takes that classic story and adds the Muppets, which makes it even more entertaining.
"Upstage Lads! This is My Only Number!"
The Muppets style of humor is frequently rather irreverent and tongue in cheek- and many times, they go so far as to break the fourth wall. That kind of humor may sometimes land with kids and sometimes go over their heads, as a result the film doesn’t feel like it’s too childish, like some other kids movies do. The film is an enjoyable ride for kids and adults alike. The fourth wall breaking in particular adds a lot to this film, there are scenes when Rizzo and Gonzo, who act like narrators in this movie, make direct references to the audience or the fact that this is a kid’s movie. Instead of pulling the viewer out of the movie, though, as some fourth wall breaks do, the consistent wall breaking makes the viewer feel more a part of the film.
Tim Curry (Legend ) plays Long John Silver, and he is absolutely incredible in this role. Curry has made a career of playing rather bizarre characters- Mrs. Frank N. Furter in Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Lord of Darkness in Legend.This role is another one that I feel like he was born to play; he brings a certain level of eccentricity that I don’t think could be matched by anyone else in that role. Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints) was also great as Billy Bones, though his role was over rather quickly. Kevin Bishop (A Few Best Men), who plays Jim Hawkins, was fine… slightly annoying with his high-pitched singing voice, but fine overall.
I suppose if I had anything bad to say about this movie it would be that it isn’t as well written as some of the other Muppet films. Had I not seen any of the other Muppet movies, I’m sure I wouldn’t have any issues with the way it was written. But, as it stands now, I have seen almost all of the other Muppet movies, and this one, while it works perfectly for me, is not as tight as other Muppet classics like The Muppet Movie or even A Muppet Christmas Carol. Though it's been a while since I’ve seen those films, I’d venture to guess they probably hold up a bit better.
As I mentioned above, there was no way this was going to be an objective review; I simply enjoy this film too much. However, I will argue that though a rosy-red filter of nostalgia taints my perception of this movie, this is a still a good film. As a kids film, this is a perfectly innocent adventure, one that, even more than twenty years after its release, will still entertain kids and adults alike.
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