Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blast from the Past Movie Review: Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

For the movie podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood, Daniel wanted to defend Muppet Treasure Island specifically and Thomas greatly wanted to see a Muppet film. So off we went. I had not seen Muppet Treasure Island since it came out in theaters when I was probably in the fifth grade, so I gladly came out to watch it.

So here's the podcast. And here comes the review...

The Plot

The classic tale of Treasure Island gets a treatment from the Muppets. Young Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) sets out on a hunt for buried gold after receiving a treasure map from the dying pirate Billy Bones alongside Muppet companions Gonzo and Rizzo. Under the command of Captain Smollett (Kermit the Frog) they sail for the Caribbean, but the mysterious ship's cook Long John Silver (Tim Curry) is much more than he appears...

The Good

*Three of the musical numbers--the really dark opening number "Shiver My Timbers" and the goofy "Cabin Fever"--have held up really well. Although some unnecessary vocals mar "Boom Shakalaka," it's still a pretty impressive introduction for a very important character.

*Tim Curry does a great job as Long John Silver, covering the whole gamut from weirdly paternal with young Jim to murderous and dangerous to charismatic.

*The pirates when they reveal themselves have a strong Marcus Rediker vibe. In the "Professional Pirate" song, one openly invokes how Sir Francis Drake is a hero to the British even though the Spanish hate him and talks about how they're a brotherhood that share with each other. Perhaps I'm giving the producers of the film too much credit for research, but Redeker is a Marxist historian who views the pirates of the Golden Age as a class revolt of common sailors, runaway slaves, etc. against the abusive governments and corporations of the time. He discusses this in his books Villains of All Nations and The Many-Headed Hydra.

*I might well be the minority opinion on the matter, but I really like puns. And at one point there's the pun, "Don't cry for me, Benjamina." I thought it was funny at least.

*Although pirate stories tend to be very male-dominated, they do a clever flip of a male character from the original book in order to bring Miss Piggy, who's too important to leave out, into the story. Pretty clever.

*There are some jokes that kids won't get that parents will. Not only is there the Evita joke I referenced earlier, here's a joke about a character having starfish in his pants and "hobbies," how another character "could have been a contender," and a character being in a relationship with another character because she's a lady, he's a pirate, and you know how the story ends. That particular story usually has a rather adult ending, and to make things even more fun, there were two different pirates involved.

*The movie isn't very long, so there's not a lot of time to bore the viewer. See below.

The Bad

*Kevin Bishop's singing voice is too high-pitched and faint. You can see it in "Something Better" and "Sailing for Adventure." It was really a distraction. He wasn't a bad actor overall, but given the importance of his role, if they couldn't remix his voice, it might've been a better idea to have a different actor.

*When the ship is setting off on its voyage, the background of the town is pretty obviously a matte painting.

*I haven't read the book, but the impression I had was that a certain character's treachery was supposed to be a surprise. In this film, the character is pretty obviously a false friend from early on, which takes away the shock.

*Sadly the movie just really is not that entertaining. I wish I could go into more detail, but it's just...not. Which is a pity considering how much I remember really liking this as a kid.

The Verdict

See it once if you're a Muppet completist. 7.0 out of 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment