The Muppets movies peaked with 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol according to all sane men and women, and for once I’m among them, it’s a film I adore and can never say enough about just how amazing it is. But the decline wasn’t initially that obvious, as 1994’s Muppet Treasure Island is a largely amusing piece with some strong performances, a number of great songs, and a plot which moves at a decent enough pace.
It’s not as good as Christmas Carol however, mainly as while that was a very faithful adaptation which mixed with the muppet’s unique sense of humour with a classic fantasy tale to create a film which dripped with charm, this is a mixture of that and modern pop culture gags which diminish it. That’s most clearly the case when a bunch of partying rats who think they’re on a cruise pop up every so often, but there’s a couple of other places too, like when Long John Silver asks Miss Piggy where she got her gold necklace before she utters “Um, shopping channel?”, it feels like a lazy joke, the easy punchline rather than something relating to the character or situation. There’s also a couple of throwaway pop culture jokes which just seem plain odd, including a bizarre blink and you’ll miss it appearance from Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy book, all of which are unneeded and don’t really work decades on.
It might seem like a minor complaint but it’s a shame these rather poor gags are thrown in as when it’s a faithful adaptation it’s really fun. Tim Curry underplays it the majority of the time to the film’s benefit and is superb as the villain of the piece, a very young Kevin Bishop appeals as a spunky Jim Hawkins, and Kermit, Gonzo, Rizzo, Piggy and the majority of the rest of the muppets provide strong support when it comes to the humour found in the film. The songs don’t quite meet those in Christmas Carol and this isn’t a soundtrack I have any real urge to own, but none are bad and there are a couple which are really likeable, Professional Pirate and the love ballad as Kermit and Miss Piggy sing to each other while hanging off a cliff being especially enjoyable. The human actors are often great too, and as well as Tim Curry both Billy Connelly and Jennifer Saunders have fun with their roles, to the extent that it’s a little frustrating that they’re not in it more.
There’s also a couple of jokes which are just bizarre and don’t hit the target, with the idea that Fozzy has a tiny man living on his finger called Mr Bimbo leaving me completely perplexed, but if you can ignore the bits which don’t work then you’ll have a ball with this. Kermit and Piggy and the rest of the muppets are once again all lovable sorts, and it is on a par with the movies from the seventies and eighties, and that’s pretty great company to be in with.