Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Muppet Treasure Island, Part 2: A Motley Crew

As Jim Hawkins boards the Hispaniola, we see that more Muppets await us.  First up, we have Statler and Waldorf as the figureheads of the ship, where they can sit and comment on the movie at their will.  I think this is actually the first time a Muppet movie used them correctly and fit them seamlessly into the story.  The need to be omnipresent, yet out of the way.

Another point for Muppet Treasure Island.

Jim and his pals make their way down to the kitchen where they meet the ship's cook, Long John Silver as played by Tim Curry.  This casting choice was perfect as no one can quite pull off being charming, creepy, and menacing simultaneously like Curry.  Jim notices that he only has one leg and becomes unsettled when he recalls that Billy Bones had mentioned a dreaded one-legged pirate.  Despite his imposing appearance, Silver reassures Jim that he is but a humble cook.

Also, he has a lobster instead of a parrot.  Only pirates have parrots.

Back on the dock, the captain of the ship arrives.  The first mate, Samuel Arrow (as played by Sam the Eagle) introduces him as a no-nonsense, stern captain who will not stand for any tomfoolery.  But this was mostly Sam's wishful thinking as Captain Smollett is good ol' Kermit the Frog.

He just wants to make sure everyone stays safe and has a good time.

This dynamic between Arrow and Smollett plays out similarly to their Muppet Show relationship, where Sam tries to exert authority without actually having the final say.  It's different from the original novel, wherein Arrow was a stumbling alcoholic, but in both cases, it prevents the character from having any sort of control over his situation and therefore, it is a welcome change to the story.

This could be the whole movie and it'd still be great.

Rizzo, in an amusing subplot, arranges for his fellow rats to board the boat under the guise that this is a cruise ship.  This creates a great through-line that adds more comic relief throughout the movie.  Rather than mess with the original story too much, the Muppets have found away to leave their mark on the movie without interfering.

It'll just be a three-hour tour.

Now that everyone is ready to go, the crew sings a rousing number called "Sailing for Adventure," where we learn that the motives of some of the crew members may be less than noble.

Afterwards, Arrow leads the role call, and it becomes even clearer that the ship has picked up some strange members.  This scene feels like the main reason someone would want to combine Muppets with Treasure Island.  There are many opportunities for strange new characters to be stuck on this overcrowded ship and the writers made sure to cram as many jokes as possible into ever inch of this boat.

Captain Smollett is no dummy, and he speaks with the financiers of the voyage to explain where this crew (that is clearly made up of pirates) came from.  The blame is placed on Trelawney (who accuses Mr. Bimbo, of course) who claimed that Long John Silver recommended the crew.  Yeah, I have a feeling Silver may be up to no good.  As if to prove how much he doesn't belong on this ship, Silver comes in presenting some alcohol to toast the start of the voyage.  Now, in the original novel, as I said, this is important for Arrow's character, and, to keep him sober, Smollett forbids the consumption of alcohol on his boat.  This will become important later, but, since this is a kids movie, no one will be doing any drinking.  After some comedy with Trelawney attempting to have a drink, Smollett puts his foot down and tells Silver to throw the stuff overboard.

Jim accompanies Silver to help him and the two have a talk about their childhood dreams of being seamen.  Jim learns that Silver also lost his father as a child, and he grows to admire the cook.  Having gained his trust, Silver claims that he is aware that this journey is actually a treasure hunt, but Jim knows he should keep the map to himself, lest it fall into the wrong hands.

Or the wrong hooves.

A trio of pirates, Polly Lobster (Silver's "parrot"), Mad Monty and Clueless Morgan the Goat, decide that it's time to get their hands on that map.  They kidnap Gonzo and Rizzo and subject them to a series of torture in order to discover the whereabouts of the map.

Including being in close proximity with Mad Monty's breath.

Gonzo, who craves pain, enjoys his stretching torture and keeps quiet (aside from his yelps of pleasure).  Just before Rizzo is about to undergo his own interrogation, Arrow discovers the treachery and turns the trio over to the Captain.  The three are ordered to be locked up, and the Captain pulls Jim aside in order to do something about the map for safety reasons.

Oh, and Gonzo enjoys his newfound flexibility.

Yes, with so many strange characters on board, sometimes it is hard to tell who is good and who is bad.  But one thing is clear, Muppets will be Muppets.  Tomorrow, a mutiny on the high seas!

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