Muppet Treasure Island

(Brian Henson, USA, 1996)


The Muppet movies are today's equivalent to the old Road To ... films starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

The backdrop (high seas, big city) or the pretext (Christmas carol, backstage musical) may change, but the characters remain the same and the jokes are as corny as ever.

In this unfussy rejigging of a classic tale, Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) races Long John Silver (Tim Curry) to hidden treasure, while Captain Kermit manages a loony crew and faces his old flame Miss Piggy. Forget the terror and wonder of Robert Louis Stevenson's book; what matters here are the opportunities for proudly silly songs about cabin fever, jungle drums and talking totem poles.

Young Bishop's dulcet tones, and Curry's fruity number about being a professional pirate, make this movie seem at times like a lazy version of Lionel Bart's Oliver!. Sly, camp entertainment value for adults is provided by throwaway jokes about Kissinger, and Miss Piggy's suggestive lingering on the Long preceding John Silver.

But mostly, as in all Muppet movies, the infectious mood derives from the general insanity of all characters – ever-ready to sing and dance even if they are about to boiled or quartered (which no one ever is, of course: Jim Henson Productions has mastered the art of bloodless, non-violent mayhem). That's the Muppet formula: zaniness, and an endless supply of "who wrote this script?" quips.

© Adrian Martin July 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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