Sunday, 19 October 2014

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Unless you're the kind of stick in the mud who refuses to watch a Muppet movie, you should check this out.

That's the precis of this review, but if you want more detail, you can keep reading, I guess.

Adapting Robert Louis Stevenson's famous (and oft-filmed) novel, this movie really gives it the full Muppet treatment.  That means comedic songs, pop culture references, and high farce abounds.  It is by no measure a subtle film, but the gags fly so fast and furious that you're unlikely to have time to care.

For the two people in the English-speaking world who don't know the story: a young orphan discovers a treasure map and has the great good fortune to find men of wealth willing to put their trust in the authenticity of said map.  That stretch of the ol' suspension of disbelief is courtesy of the original tale; the movie lampshades the improbability heavily.  Of course, this is a movie in which a frog captains a sailing ship, so improbability is not really a concern.

The orphan - Jim - becomes friends with the ship's cook, a one-legged sailor known as Long John Silver.  I honestly assume I'm wasting my time with this summary, but just in case: Silver is not as bluff and hearty as he appears, though he may also not be quite the cad and scoundrel you'd expect of a man who plans a mutiny.  Many shenanigans will ensure in the competition for the treasure.

This film makes lots of changes to the details of the story, of course.  It's rather necessary, what with the need to get Miss Piggy on screen in a story that originally has no significant female characters.  It's rather heavier on the slapstick and humour than the original as well, as you might imagine.

You probably know what to expect from the Muppets themselves, so how is the human cast?  Well, there's a bit of stunt casting with Billy Connolly and Jennifer Saunders playing small roles at the beginning, but the only two human roles of any size are those of Jim Hawkins (played by a then-youngster whose singing voice isn't really up to the task, but who is otherwise sound) and Long John Silver (played with scene-chewing excess by Tim Curry, who looks to be having a great time, and is hugely fun to watch).

Random aside: about the only person I could imagine being a better Silver is Brian Blessed, and I have now discovered he did indeed play the character back in 1986's Return to Treasure Island.  I may need to see if I can find that.

Anyway: this is a fun family film, and it ought to win a few laughs out of you.  I very much enjoyed it.

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