Brian Henson's take on the classic Treasure Island story by Robert Louis Stevenson, featuring the old cast favorites of The Muppet Show, and Tim Curry playing Long John Silver. In the English seaside in the 18th Century, Jim Hawkins, played by Kevin Bishop, is now given two friends.... Gonzo and Rizzo, who are once again paired together as a comedy team and are the focus for much of the movie. When sailor Billy Bones warns of a treasure that legendary pirate captain Bernie Flint hid, and Jim's harridan-employer's inn is burned down by Flint's surviving pirate crew, Flint's treasure map ends up in Jim's possession. Fozzie Bear (playing rich-dolt Trelawney) confirms the map's authenticity, so they all set sail on the Hispaniola to find the treasure. Bunsen Honeydew plays Dr. Livesey, Kermit the Frog plays the ship's master Captain Smollett, Sam the Eagle is Mister Arrow, the first mate. Miss Piggy plays a gender-flipped version of Ben Gunn; a castaway marooned on the relevant island.It isn't that high on the radar for most of the public memory, but is considered by fans to be one of the darkest and grittiest Muppet films, and one of their funniest productions.
This film contains examples of:
Absentee Actor: Frank Oz was unavailable for parts of filming, leaving Kevin Clash to perform several of his scenes. For the scenes he wasn't available for, Oz looped his characters' voices in post production.
Anachronism Stew: As is typical of a Muppet movie. One of the more prominent examples: Rizzo makes extra money by taking a group of rats along on a modern-style cruise on the ship, who dress as Hawaiian Shirted Tourists and use camcorders, speedboats and scuba gear.
Long John: "I could never kill you, lad. You're honest and brave and true. You didn't learn any of that from me."
Jim: "I learned it from my friends, Mr. Silver."
Also, at one point, Sweetums turns out to be on the side of Smollett and his men, despite being a pirate. When Smollett questions this, he replies, "Are you kidding? I love you guys!" which is a Call Back to the original movie.
From the start, and the end of the movie:
Jim: "Wherever the wind may take us!"
Gonzo: "Off to Zanzibar to meet the Zanzi-barbarians!"
Rizzo: "Here they go again..."
The Cameo: The Swedish Chef, who appears towards the end of the film wearing a fake pig snout on the island of the "cannibal pigs". Lampshaded by the Singing Fruit who break the fourth wall to address the audience, asking "How else were we supposed to get him in this movie?"
In the same scene, very briefly, Link Hogthrob as the gong-ringer.
Squire Trelawney [Fozzie] talks to a little man who lives in his finger, and as he says upon greenlighting the voyage:
Trelawney: What are rich half-wit sons for?
Plus there's Gonzo. Case in point:
Gonzo: It feels so weird. Rizzo: You mean that Mr. Arrow is dead? Gonzo: Yeah, that. And my pants are filled with starfish. (beat) Rizzo: You and your hobbies...
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In the scene in which the remaining Hispaniola crew and Benjamina confront Silver, they are all dressed in pristine, heroic-looking white shirts with dark breeches, which we might as well chalk up to Rule of Cool since those outfits never show up anywhere else.
Darker and Edgier: It still has the usual Muppet goofiness, but it's a lot darker than the usual stuff. After all, the film's opening has a harsh male choir singing a rather morbid song with subject matter including such family friendly material as murder, greed, alcoholism, and even a reference to Old Nick himself. And it's all topped off with Flint murdering his entire crew. The remainder of the film is filled with somewhat intense scenes of threat, drinking and possible cannibalism.
In true Muppet fashion, this is lampshaded: "He died? But this is a kids' movie!"
Don't forget the first musical number on the ship, which talks about dying by falling overboard.
"I love to see 'em cry when they walk the plank." "I prefer to cut a throat." "I love to hang 'em high and watch their little feet try to walk in the air while their faces turn bluuue."
Long John tells his fellow mutineers that Satan is heating his pokers for their heresy of tearing a page from the Bible to give him the black spot.
The Danza: In an interesting variation, the pre-existing character Billy Bones is played by Billy Connolly.
Dead Hat Shot: After Arrow is "washed overboard", one of the crew informs Captain Smollett that all that was found of him was his hat. Subverted in that it wasn't actually found in the water; Mr. Arrow had given it to Long John.
Face Palm: Benjamina when her tribe decides they're not going to tangle with "boom-boom sticks."
Also Mr. Arrow when Kermit's swrod slips out of his hand.
Felony Misdemeanor: Arrow reacts this way to dust on the ship, incorrectly assuming the captain will feel the same.
Finish Dialogue in Unison: When Bones finishes telling the story about Flint, he says "Now isn't that story worth the hearin'?" - as do most of the guests, followed by one of the patrons complaining, "It was the first dozen times we heard it!"
From a Certain Point of View: Long John appeals to this while trying to convince Jim that pirates aren't all that bad in "Professional Pirate", using Sir Francis Drake (evil pirate to the Spanish, hero to the British) as an example. Subverted in that everything in the song about how pirates are good people are Blatant Lies and Suspiciously Specific Denials.
Frothy Mugs of Water: Completely averted, though Captain Smollett does outlaw alcohol on the voyage.
Everything that happened with Benjamina and the pirates prior to the movie probably qualifies: "I took up with this Captain Flint fellow...he was a pirate, I was a lady, you know how the story goes." Most of the adults in the audience probably recognize that the "story" in question usually doesn't get a PG rating...
Also, when Long John's crew are about to give him the Black Spot, Clueless Morgan had to have been thinking of something entirely different.
Clueless Morgan: Yeah?
Polly: Give it to him!
Clueless Morgan: *pause* But uhh...it's not even his birthday.
God Save Us from the Queen!: Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy) is built up this way by the native boars prior to her entrance. The chief boar tells Smollett and the others, "Now you face wrath of our queen, Boomshakalaka!" She then enters the scene riding an elephant, obscured by palm fronds, and serenaded by an increasingly frantic beating of drums and chanting of her name.
Killed Off for Real: Billy Bones dies at the start of the film. According to his biography, Billy Connolly is apparently very proud of his record as the only character ever to die in a Muppets film.
Hilariously spoofed (alongside the Posthumous Character trope) by Dead Tom. Despite being "dead" from the beginning, he ends up getting killed (yet again?) during a confrontation between Long John and the other pirates. Made even funnier when one of the unnamed pirates cradles his body and mourns his passing, only to be informed that Tom has "always been dead" (thus his being "Dead" Tom), to which said pirate stops crying, exclaims an "Oh" and promptly drops the "corpse".
Large Ham: Tim Curry (in fact, he says that out of all the movies he has been in, this is his favorite), Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders and, of course, the Muppets themselves.
Laser-Guided Karma / Reality Ensues After Silver gets away with part of the treasure, Arrow comes up behind Jim and Smollett and mentions that the boat he just took was unsafe. Sure enough, it and the treasure sink, forcing Silver to swim to Treasure Island.
Hoist by His Own Petard Arrow knows this because Silver disposed of him earlier by stoking paranoia about leaky lifeboats and persuading Arrow to take one out for a test run. At the time it looked like Arrow had been killed by this.
Rizzo: I've gone waaay beyond afraid! Right now I'm somewhere between bed-wetting and a near-death-experience!
Manipulative Bastard: Long John. He befriends Jim and gets him to fess up about the map's whereabouts, tricks Arrow into giving him the keys and removing himself from the ship, and then when the other pirates turn on him, he wins them back by literally putting the fear of God into them 'cause they defaced a Bible.
Meaningful Name: Not so much 'meaningful' as 'literal' amongst the crew. It includes such specimens as Wall-Eyed Pike, Black-Eyed Pea, Headless Bill, Old Tom, Really Old Tom, and, of course, Dead Tom.
Subverted with "Big Fat Ugly Bug-Faced Baby-Eating O'Brien".
Who apparently switched names with Angel Marie.
Mind Your Step: Benjamina (Ms. Piggy) ruins her huge entrance by tumbling down the stairs. She blames her pet anteater.
Missing Mom: In the original novel, Jim Hawkins' mother was still around. In this movie, no such luck.
Mook-Face Turn: Sweetums does this at the end, during the big fight, when it looks as though he is going to bash Smollet and Mr. Arrow on the head with a large log, but actually hits some of his fellow pirates on the head instead. This is immediately lampshaded:
Smollet: Well, thank you. But aren't you supposed to fighting against us?
And even those audience members who've never read or heard about Treasure Island reach that conclusion upon seeing Tim Curry. Then there's Long John's one leg and Billy's previous warning about the one-legged man and not to mention the occational ominous music...
Ocean Madness: Results in the showstopping "Cabin Fever" musical number.
Benjamina Gunn qualifies. After all, the character in the original book was part of Flint's crew.
Pirate Parrot: Subverted and lampshaded. While Polly does screech for crackers and pieces of eight, he is a lobster. When Gonzo says that he thought sailors had talking parrots, he receives a blank look from Polly and Silver.
Played for Drama: Though the entire movie is fairly dark, especially for a Muppet movie, the confrontation between Jim and Silver when Silver is leaving the ship could very well come from a completely different movie given the dead serious tone it has.
Pragmatic Adaptation: The story is pretty much left untouched - Billy Bones is still The Alcoholic, but he only has the one drunken fit on-screen, and whilst he's not exactly shy about letting people know he was the first mate of one the most bloodthirsty pirate crews who ever sailed the Seven Seas, everyone thinks he's making it up. Meanwhile, Squire Trelawney is replaced by Young Squire Trelawney, and the pirates' camp from the original novel is left out entirely.
R-Rated Opening: Though the movie doesn't reach anywhere near an R rating, "Shiver My Timbers" serves this purpose for what is (as Rizzo said) "supposed to be a kid's movie". A foreboding song about how ruthless and bloodthirsty pirates are, culminating in the first shot of an offscreen massacre of a pirate crew.
Shiver my timbers, shiver my sails! DEAD! MEN! TELL! NO! TALES! [BANG]
Runaway Groom: Before the movie. Smollett left Benjamina standing at the altar.
Selective Obliviousness: The rats purchased tickets to go along on the adventure with the understanding that they were going on a cruise ship, and behave accordingly. Lampshaded (isn't everything?) when several of them take a tour of the island and the tour guide points out that they are currently viewing "an actual film location from the movie Muppet Treasure Island!" Yet later, during the climactic battle with the pirates, several of the female rats act as cheerleaders for Captain Smollett.
I could have been in politics, cause I've always been a big spender./And me... I coulda been... a contender.
The "Dead Tom is dead!" scene is a Shout-Out to Fraggle Rock, in that the pirate who cries over Dead Tom's "death" is Mudwell the Mudbunny from episode Gone, But Not Forgotten; a true Tear Jerker story that takes up the themes of death and rebirth.
Silver: "The Black Spot? You dare to give me the Black Spot? Drawn on a page from the Bible? You tore a page from the Holy Scriptures to make a pirate’s death sentence? Oooooh, the red hot gates of Hell are creeping open! Satan is a-heatin' his pokers for you, you blasphemous heathens! Fall down on your knees and beg for deliverance from damnation!"
Rizzo: Okay, all right, so I'm a rat, and you're a human being, and Gonzo's a... uh...
Rizzo: Yeah! I mean, we're still — we're still family!
Up to Eleven: The three pirates Old Tom, Real Old Tom, and Dead Tom.
Villain Song: "Professional Pirate" is arguably the best number in the whole thing (except for maybe "Cabin Fever"). "Shiver My Timbers" could also be considered a Villain Song, although the villains in question are posthumous.
Lampshaded by Long John Silver as he begins - "Upstage, lads! This is my only number..."