(Editor’s note: I’ve been meaning to review this film for some time. Before I knew it, 15 years snuck by. I finally have 20 minutes to kill, so we’re good to go.)
I rewatched Muppet Treasure Island for the first time in 10 years yesterday.
What? You can’t blame me for letting my brain melt. It’s summer and I haven’t had real human interaction in years. I’m like Tom Hanks in Castaway— I have a 3 foot beard and my best friend is a volleyball. I’ve yet to stoop to the level of whoring myself out on SpitchTown, but give it a few more days and who knows?
Anyway, I had a life-changing epiphany: Muppet Treasure Island is the most fantastic piece of art ever put on celluloid. It makes The Tree of Life, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and La Dolce Vita look like somebody smeared dog turds on strips of Kodak filmstock, forced the mess into a projector, and called it a day.
I mean, we’re talking about a film where puppets and humans cohabitate on and cooperatively maintain a seafaring vessel and no one ever once addresses the fact that the former needs other humans’ arms inserted far up into their body cavities to even speak, let alone hoist the main sail.
Talk about living in a world free of prejudice. You’d think one of the more loose-tongued boatswains would’ve let fly a stray comment about Fozzy Bear’s wire, felt and glue substituting for a circulatory system. But no.
Muppet Treasure Island doesn’t see race. It doesn’t see a lot of things.
Simply put, it very well may be the best movie of all time.
Or at least the best movie starring Kevin Bishop (2nd from right)
I was legitimately caught off guard over how funny the movie still is. It was amusing when I was 7, but I realize now that the majority of the jokes went over my head at the time. One need look no further than the roll call scene for an example of the film’s deadpan sense of humor. Seriously, watch it.
If you were a fan of The Muppets as a kid, you’re aware of those two sarcastic old curmudgeons who hurl insults from the balcony. They make appearances as gargoyles on the front of the ship in this film. Their humor is (and always has been) extremely self-referential and self-deprecating, going so far as to make fun of Muppet Treasure Island itself 2-3 times.
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.”
Rizzo and Gonzo might be the best characters in the whole thing, though. I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island twice and I totally forgot they were major characters. At one point, Rizzo invites 15-20 rats decked out with cameras and Hawaiian shirts onto the ship, telling them it’s a pirate cruise voyage (to make a quick buck in case the treasure map turns out to be phony). For the rest of the film, these tourist rats sit idly by and witness the dramatic events of the main narrative, vaguely amused and taking pictures, as if it’s all just part of their vacation.
The cinematography is superb. The acting is perfect, especially Tim Curry as Long John Silver and Kermit the Frog as Abraham Smollett. Every moment in the script feels genuine, especially Silver (masquerading as a lowly cook) overtaking the ship by having his men detain the ‘good’ crew while they’re at their weakest.
A schizophrenic teddy bear and two gay doctors somehow couldn’t withstand a dozen pirates, half of them muppets, half of them 200lb+ humans.
As soon as the credits began to roll, I raced to the nearest computer to look up how many Oscars it was awarded in 1996.
Not surprisingly, IMDB tells me Muppet Treasure Island raked in 11 Academy Awards, including Best Song for “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion.
Long story short, just go get a tattoo of this movie’s poster on your lower back as soon as possible.
Final Grade: WHOA.