Picks for Popcorn: Muppet Treasure Island


Hey guys it’s Sam. There are just some cartoons out there that are so darn popular, they even get interpreted into other terms of media, like Mickey Mouse in Beauty and the Beast or something like that. And some of those people have permission all on their own, like it’s perfectly normal. Especially a specific group of praised puppetry known as the Muppets, created by the late Jim Henson, aka “the Muppeteer”. While they’ve been alive for almost six decades now, the Muppets have also been known [besides their show in the late 70s and early 80s] to star in film, twisting classics like The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol. But there’s been no Muppet mix-up quite like this. Taking you to the days where treasure hunting was practically everything, this Muppet movie from 1996 told you to “set sail for Muppet mayhem!” And Muppet mayhem it was.

You may know them as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, but in this modern twist they are Captain Abraham Smollett and Benjamina Gunn, prisoners of love with a past affiliation of being ex-fiancees.

Muppet Treasure Island (1996), a musical action-dramedy film, the fifth Muppet feature film so far, re-enacts Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless Treasure Island that’s been with us for over a century. In this revamp, our Muppet pals are back on the attack, with Captain Smollett (Kermit) and his colleagues engaging in wide-open-sea warfare against a pack of ruthless pirates. They’re also headed toward the same goal: a chest of buried treasure, the movie being called Muppet Treasure Island. As with the previous film (A Muppet Christmas Carol), the more essential roles are ironically played by human beings, but they’ve always had a good reason to conceal it. The protagonist of the movie, also of the book, is an orphaned boy named Jim Hawkins who befriends fellow Muppets Rizzo the Rat and the Great Gonzo (he wasn’t Gonzo the Great as of 1996, I guess). If you’re familiar with movies full of shabby, singing seamen who all too easily drain the barrel of rum, then I guess this is gonna be old for you. If you’re familiar with movies full of wisecracking, singing puppets who all too easily make good money, then I guess this is gonna be old for you too.

It’s not that Muppet Treasure Island is bad…it’s just not great, either. I didn’t get completely sucked into the action as I hoped I would for a Muppet movie, and they had bad timing to balance between funny moments, serious moments, and those moments where Muppets unexpectedly break into song annoyingly. And if you see the pie chart above, these musical moments appear all too frequently. You’ll be laughing hysterically at one scene while being completely bored out by the next, but Muppet Treasure Island clearly isn’t the best Muppet movie…just not the worst.  On the bright side, the movie in general is a cheerful and energetic take on the classic, full of supposedly solid gags, though honestly less centric than the originals. But it also does tremendously well breaking the fourth wall more than once (“He’s dead? And this was supposed to be a kids movie!”)  And a Muppet movie should pay reasonable attention on each Muppet throughout the movie (but not as much as an ensemble movie would), not juggle scenes between man and Muppet. That’s just hard to pull off. The music isn’t half-bad, either. Check out these songs from the OST called “Boom Shakalaka” and “Cabin Fever”.

Chart, please.

 2 out of 5 – Educational value –  The movie is meant for amusement only, but it being a Treasure Island twist, it introduces characters and situations from the book. Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver are actually characters from the book, for instance. Also, words are defined like “helm” and “North Star.”

 3 1/2 out of 5 – Positive messages – This movie makes great use of the phrase “Everyone might not be who they say they are.” For example, Long John Silver appears friendly at first to young Hawkins, but this proves later on to be a scam. Hawkins who feels as if he has no family finds out that the conceptualization of family isn’t simply defined: a family can compose from people (or Muppets, or a “whatever” like Gonzo) who aren’t really affiliated with you, but love and protect you and have your best interests anyway.

3 1/2 out of 5 – Positive role models – Young Hawkins, a centric character, is “honest, brave, and true” throughout the movie, and the key Muppet (Captain Smollett) is compassionate, trustworthy, and reliable. The overblown, comical baddies are greedy and destructive, but they do suffer the side-effects of their misbehavior.

3 3/4 out of 5 – Ease of view – Muppet Treasure Island, like I said, isn’t the best Muppet movie to date, nor is it as centric as past and future titles, but its humorous gags, catchy music, and cheerful energy make for a good, acceptable apology for its own flaws. And that’s all that matters in the Muppet world.

4 out of 5 – Violence – A surprising amount for a G-rated movie, whether pratfall, slapstick, or actual. Hawkins and his “family” are pursued by angry pirates throughout their home. Pirates are chased by the sparks of gunpowder before eventually having it set off, evoking an explosion with fiery consequences in Hawkins’ home. Gunnery and swordplay occur frequently. There is one minor seaman character named Dead Tom, who is basically a skeleton. Knife threats and torture/death referencing occur, as well as the appearance of wild tribal pigs. Smollett and Benjamina are tied by their feet and dangled precariously above the sea by their own will. Someone dies onscreen, eyes shut and mouth open. A Muppet named Mr. Errol pretends to be a ghost long after walking the plank, and this proves successful, making all the shipmates jump overboard in fear. It’s all exaggerated violence and, like with any kids movie, is meant to be more funny than scary.

 2 3/4 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Benjamina makes a slightly steamy comment to Long John. Smollett ends up grabbing and holding his dress-wearing ex-fiancee by the feet after her rope gives way above the precipice, putting him in a traumatizing stance, if you know what I mean. Play the cards right, I ain’t gonna tell you. One Muppet defines the sea as “the big, blue wet thing”. Hawkins is mistaken by a Muppet as being a girl.

1 out of 5 - Language – Salty language for salty pirates, of course. Slight sprinklings like “hell” and “damnation” occur from the pirates’ oral perspectives.

2 1/2 out of 5 – Product Placement – The Muppets are very famous titles in the cartoon world. Fourth-wall fracture occurs twice: “He’s dead? And this was supposed to be a kids movie!” and “…we couldn’t save the movie!”

3 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – Rowdy pirates are onscreen drinking in a tavern from pewter mugs. Long John Silver brings a couple servings of the best brandy around to toast to the voyage, but Smollett refuses to allow it, saying that there will be “no drinking on this ship.” Long John then proceeds to ensure that every last drop of alcohol is tossed overboard. One Muppet repeatedly fills their cup and dumps it out the window, converting between Long John’s attempts and Smollett’s refusal.

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Smarts: A- (4 points)

See-Again Ratio: A- (4 points)

Fun: A+ (5 points)

Entertainment: A+ (5 points)

Humor: A+ (5 points)

Style: A- (4 points)

FINAL SCORE: 27 out of 30 (not bad, for a Muppet movie), 4 stars out of 5, 82% out of 100%

CONSENSUS: It may not shine as brightly as other titles, and it’s not as Muppet-centric, but Muppet Treasure Island is still a worthwhile entry full of great gags, music, and energy, despite it being arguably the most violent Muppet movie yet.

PRICE: Thy proclaim thee has a desire to possess a version made to be similar or identical to Muppet Treasure Island? Surely! Thou Kermit’s 50th Anniversary particular version will require the payment of $10 with 34% of thy savings. Thee used particular version will require the—y’know what, sounding like a gentlemen is really boring. The used copies of the movie are $7, while the new are $9. The regular version has a new price of $36, and a used one of $7. At Blockbuster, a weekly rental costs $5, no subscription required, with only about a day to wait.

IS THIS A POPCORN PICK?: Despite all I have pointed out, yes, I guess it truly is a popcorn pick.

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REWARD: Smiley face! :D :D :D :D :D :D Enough of that, thanks for tuning into Sammwak, providing the cure to boredom since 2010, for 23 months, approximately 690 days, 16,560 minutes, 993,600 seconds, and and over 993 million milliseconds. And I’ve never been more honored to say so.

But also, Sammwak will be entering its 24th month of existence this April. And we all know 24 months = 2 years. Which means…Sammwak is having a birthday bash! That’s right, on [Wednesday,] April 11, the same day my first post was created (with 7 others), Sammwak will be turning two at about 6:24 pm that day. And to serve my homages to my blog and faithful, my birthday bash will release the same time. So tune in to Sammwak on April 11 at 6/5c for the biggest birthday bash on Earth! (Even bigger than mine.) But for now, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and/or good night.

- Sam ;)