Making the Grades
Over 400 Muppets and more humans than any other Muppet movie are gathered together for Muppet Treasure Island, the latest Henson offering. As usual, the Muppets cash in on their enviable marketing ability, appealing to adults as much as children, with their corny puns and tongue-in-cheek humor woven into the serious themes presented in Stevenson's original story.
Long John Silver (Tim Curry) was the ultimate temptation to young Jim (Kevin Bishop) as he tried to lure Jim to give him the treasure map. This confrontation creates many threatening scenes, with men trying to kill Jim while other segments depict mass murder and torture. The Muppets do their best to help you laugh your way through the bad guys with the frogs, rats, and pigs obscuring the more serious content, however younger children may be frightened as they won't understand some of the humor.
For the big kids (including the parents), there are enough sight gags and asides to always keep the story interesting. One favorite of mine was the ongoing Pirate Cruise, featuring the Muppet rodents in full tacky touristy outfits and miniature cameras. "We put the RAT in Pirate," announces the cruise director as they pile onto the ship. As usual, a place has been found for all the Muppet regulars, including the Swedish chef making cannibal soup, with the introductory line of, "How else could we fit him into this movie?"
The beauty of Muppets is they don't have egos. Even Miss Piggy can't bite the hand that moves her, as she only plays a small part at the end of the movie. On the other hand, their human counterparts seem to be taking themselves much too seriously, especially Curry as Long John. Part of the problem is Treasure Island is anything but a comedy, and often the humor seems misplaced. At the same time, there is still some fun entertainment here, and with every scene shot inside the huge Shepperton studios in England (including the beach!), Muppet Treasure Island is worth digging for.