A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 257 – Muppet Treasure Island

Muppet Treasure Island – November 12th, 2010

I have a cold. It sucks a great deal and I’m a little out of it really, so today I needed a movie that would be easy on my brain. Normally I’d save a movie like this for a really bad day at work, preferably one that got out late, since the movie’s on the shorter side. But I think a sick day is a good justification for a short easy movie, don’t you? And really, any Muppet movie is a good one for when you need something fun and easy to watch. Sure, some are better than others, but I honestly don’t think there are any flat out bad Muppet movies. They’re all fun and they’re all full of Muppets and that’s really an impressive thing. Better than the Star Trek franchise, that’s for certain.

Muppet movies seem to fall into two categories (three if you count things like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal as a category on their own): Original stories and adapted stories. They started out with originals, but since then there’ve been a few adaptations of classic books and you know what? I’m really good with that. There’s a certain something I love when the Muppets do a send-up of something established. Look at Monsterpiece Theater on Sesame Street, for example. Or Sherlock Hemlock, also a Sesame Street spot (and those references to things adults would know always made Sesame Street extra awesome). So when the Muppets tackle something like Treasure Island I sort of know what to expect. There will be goofy asides and there will be fourth wall breaking, like in any Muppet movie, and there will be alterations of certain characters to suit the Muppets as a cast. You can’t expect anything remotely serious-minded here. The closest you’re going to get is a bit of touching character arc and maybe some Piggy and Kermit romance.

This movie is, as the title suggests, based on Treasure Island, and I’ve never read the book myself, so I won’t be making any comparisons here (I’ve mentioned my aversion to “classics” before, I’m sure). Mostly what I want to talk about are the musical numbers, Gonzo and Tim Curry. I’m not really a big fan of the kid they got to play Jim, but I can’t say it’s a problem with his acting. It’s mostly because they gave him a couple of songs to sing and they’ve always seemed to me to be a little incongruous with the rest of the musical bits. They throw it to him in the middle of “Sailing For Adventure” and out of the gung ho, sung with character and humor Muppet lines comes this youthful choral voice. When the other humans singing are over-the-top pirates and Tim Curry? It’s just never quite worked for me. The rest of the numbers, on the other hand, are a lot of fun. Even “Love Led Us Here” – so long as it’s the version in the movie, done by Piggy and Kermit, and not the end credits version. But without question, my favorite musical number in the movie is “Cabin Fever”, which I reference oddly often, given that it’s a jazzy number about being becalmed on the ocean. But it’s got the whole cast of Muppets and extras dancing around on the boat, doing Muppet weirdness perfectly.

Now, while Kermit has always been at the heart of the Muppets and been the focal figure of many movies, he takes a bit of a secondary seat in this one and I found I don’t mind. I love Kermit, don’t get me wrong. But I love Gonzo too, and he’s certainly front and center in this movie. Let’s face it, the story isn’t about the captain of the Hispaniola. It’s about Jim, and placing Gonzo with the human actor playing Jim was a good move. I do find it interesting that in the Muppet adaptations I’ve seen, there’s always a human playing one or more of the key roles (Ashanti in Muppet Wizard of Oz and Michael Caine in Muppet Christmas Carol in addition to Kevin Bishop and Tim Curry here) as opposed to the humans being the baddies and cameos in the original stories. I think I prefer the Muppet focus in the originals, all things considered, but this movie definitely tried to split the spotlight by giving Jim two co-cabin boys in Gonzo and Rizzo and I like how they’re used here. Gonzo is his typically bizarre self, putting starfish in his pants and enjoying the rack, and Rizzo brings in some humor to the ship by running a cruise for other rats. I love that rat cruise bit, by the way. It’s a fantastic little joke about rats on ships and makes for some great bits with the rats treating the whole story as shipboard entertainment.

Really, though, if you want to know what solidifies this movie on my favorites list? It’s Tim Curry. This is a man who revels in chewing scenery and here he’s been let loose amongst the Muppets. It’s a match made in heaven, really. I would have loved for him to have been on the original Muppet Show and I am rather sad to know there’s no turning back time to get him on it. This is as close as I’m likely to get and I’m pretty damn happy, really. He hams it up more than any of the pigs on screen and it’s a joy to see him so obviously enjoying himself. He has just the right attitude to be playing a scheming baddie in a Muppet movie.

Add Tim Curry to Cabin Fever and the rest of the movie could be utter blah and I’d still be happy, really. But it’s not blah. It’s a heck of a lot of fun on top of Curry and Cabin Fever. There’s the main cast filling in a number of major and minor roles, like Sweetums as one of the pirates and Statler and Waldorf as the mastheads of the ship in addition to Kermit as the captain and Piggy as the stranded Benjamina Gunn. I do love a lot of the pirates, like Clueless Morgan and Dead Tom, and I love the inclusion of Sam the American Eagle as first mate. It’s all just a lot of great Muppet work and some fun casting and songs. The fun truly does outweigh the meh by a large margin, which is as it should be.

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November 12, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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