“Upstage, lads. This is my only number.”
The Scoop: 1996 G, directed by Brian Henson and starring Tim Curry, Kevin Bishop, Billy Connolly, Dave Goelz, and Steve Whitmire
Tagline: Set sail for Muppet mayhem!
Summary Capsule: Puppets, pirates, and treas-arrrr!
Eunice’s rating: “Knock. Knock.” “Who’s there?” “Interrupting pirate.” “Interrupting pirate w-” “AAARRRRRR!”
Eunice’s review: If I were to rate my top five Muppet movies, they would go as follows: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and Muppets Take Manhattan easily take the top three slots, while Christmas Carol and Treasure Island duke it out depending on my mood to sort out which falls into four and five.
Treasure is much closer in spirit with Christmas than its other older siblings. It, of course, is based off a classic book. It’s more human character focused with Kevin Bishop playing Jim Hawkins and [The amazing! The legendary! The one and only!] Tim Curry as Long John Silver, with only two cameos – Billy Connolly and Jennifer Saunders. The classically main Muppets are downplayed with Kermit not popping up until almost thirty minutes in, Miss Piggy at an hour, and Fozzy being a mostly background character. Gonzo and Rizzo as Jim’s best friends get the biggest parts among the felt and feathers crew, with Sam the Eagle getting his biggest part ever.
Let me back up. For anyone who hasn’t read the book (Shame on you!) or seen any of the movies, this is the story and the movie sticks pretty close: Jim Hawkins, along with his friends Gonzo and Rizzo, is an orphan boy who dreams of going to sea, but instead lives and works at the Admiral Benbow Inn doing menial tasks. One of the boarders, Billy Bones who warns Jim to beware “the one legged man,” is visited by [Blind] Pew who gives him The Black Spot – A pirate death sentence. Billy was first mate to the notorious pirate Captain Flint. Flint buried his treasure on an island, killed the crew who helped him bury it and died before he could ever get back to the island leaving Billy with the map, so he went into hiding from the rest of the surviving crew who want to kill him and take the map. When Billy drops dead Jim takes the map and goes to [Young] Squire Trelawney (Fozzy) to get financed and fitted out for a ship and crew to go find the treasure. On ship, Jim meets Captain Smollet (Kermit) and ship’s cook Long John Silver, a man with one leg.
While Christmas has a little more polish and flow as a movie, Treasure is (for me) better fun and has more sing alongable songs. Makes sense, where Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a ghost tale about how a man became a hateful miser and has his last chance to escape eternal torture, Robert Louis Stevenson’s story is an adventure about treasure, friendship, betrayal, and above all pirates.
Speaking of songs, something I’ve been noticing going back and watching Muppet movies now that I’m older is that you really have to listen to the lyrics because they’re really funny and clever and there’s things I can promise you didn’t pick up when you watched them as a kid. ‘Cabin Fever’ is easily the best song, I also really like the dark murderous ‘Shiver My Timbers,’ the rollicking ‘Sailing for Adventure,’ and getting to see Tim Curry singing is always great and ‘Professional Pirate’ is a nice number for him. I’d like to point out that this is the pirate movie Hans Zimmer worked on seven years before Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and you can hear a taste of that here.
So there’s musical numbers and puppets, visual humor and goofy comedy for all ages (who puts a Henry Kissinger joke in a kids movie? The Muppets that’s who). The roll call in particular always makes me laugh. That said, it’s definitely the darkest Muppet movie as it has an actual mortality rate (“He died?! I thought this was supposed to be a kids’ movie!”). So it does kinda standout for that.
I got a copy of this as soon as it came out on VHS, and because of that after Rocky Horror and Clue this is my quintessential Tim Curry movie. It may not be the deepest role he’s ever played, but he does genuinely likable and threatening villain perfectly, and his eyes at his and Jim’s final showdown is some solid acting. I can’t imagine another Long John in this Treasure Island (even Miss Piggy couldn’t resist him apparently). If I ever get made any sort of boss I plan on taking a clip of Curry going “…And I’m the new captain.” and playing it endlessly, his delivery is just perfect.
Muppets + Pirates + Musical numbers + pigs going “Boomshakalaka!” = A lot of fun.
- “Treasure Island or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola” was serialized in Young Folks 1881–82. It’s totally worth reading. The first movie adaptation was in 1918, but the 1934 version starring Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery is probably the most famous version. In 1950 Disney did one with Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton, Newton would later reprise Silver in the non-Disney sequel Long John Silver in 1954, the first Australian made Cinemascope movie.
- Muppet Treasure Island falls between Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) and Muppets from Space (1999) for theater released movies.
- Rowlf only makes a no lines cameo at the Admiral Benbow Inn having not been recasted after Jim Henson’s death in 1990. (Camilla the chicken’s in the same scene)
- Eight years before Disney buys The Muppets, Polly Lobster makes the “singing, dancing mouse” joke.
- Big Fat Ugly Bug-Faced Baby-Eating O’Brian is Brian Henson’s wife.
- Tim Curry was given a Muppet made in the likeness of him as Long John Silver after shooting was completed.
- I highly suspect Kevin Bishop really did go the wrong way when Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo run out of Billy Bones’ room.
- My favorite puppet moments: The glow in the dark eyeballs. Kermit saves Piggy. You get to see Kermit and Sam Eagle’s feet (they’re so cute)
- Star Trek joke.
- Henry Kissinger!
- Sir Francis Drake reference!
- On the Waterfront
- When I was ten I had a dress that looked exactly like the ‘Cabin Fever’ outfits Black Eye Pea and the British wife are wearing.
- The pig named Spa’am
- This is the least irritating Rizzo the Rat has ever been, and some of the rat cruise ship jokes are really funny, but some times it’s just gets tiresome.
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? You get to see Long John’s fate
Billy Bones: Beware lads! Beware.
Jim Hawkins: What, the one-legged man?
Billy Bones: Aye. But also, beware runnin’ with scissors or any other pointy object. It’s all good fun, until somebody loses a – Ahhhh!
Rizzo: We are standing in a room with a dead guy!
Rizzo: He’s some kind of a blind fiend.
Gonzo: I believe they prefer visually challenged fiend.
Statler: “Take a cruise,” you said. “See the world,” you said. Now here we are, stuck on the front of this stupid ship.
Waldorf: Well, it could be worse. We could be stuck in the audience.
Polly Lobster: What an imagination. First pirates, now talking parrots, what’s next – a singing, dancing mouse with his own amusement park?
Long John Silver: Upstage, lads. This is my only number.
Mudwell the Mudbunny: Dead Tom’s dead. Long John shot him!
Walleyed Pike: But Dead Tom’s always been dead. That’s why he’s called Dead Tom.
Benjamina Gunn: You left me standing at the altar.
Captain Abraham Smollett: I was on a ship headed for Zanzibar. I got cold feet.
Benjamina Gunn: You’re a frog. You’re supposed to have cold feet.
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