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'Muppet Treasure Island' a Lively Voyage

MOVIE REVIEW

February 16, 1996|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Muppet Treasure Island" is a wonderful picture for children, a work of considerable artistry and craftsmanship that ought to please many adults as well, provided they're prepared to go along with a highly familiar, very simple story. It mixes Muppets--400, no less--and humans with ease, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil have come up with a clutch of pleasant songs. Its shrewdest inspiration is in casting Tim Curry as a smoothly villainous Long John Silver, a role he plays with a wicked twinkle in his eye.

Assured 14-year-old newcomer Kevin Bishop plays Jim Hawkins, the seaside tavern slave who falls heir to a treasure map and is soon off on an exciting voyage aboard the great ship of Captain Smollett (Kermit the Frog), with his pals Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat along with Long John and many others. There is plenty of adventure, and even Miss Piggy turns up on a tropical isle.

The look that director Brian Henson and his enormous crew have given the picture is really something, like illustrations in a vintage children's book brought to life, the perfect setting for a raft of adorable Muppets. There's considerable wit and humor in the script Henson and others drew from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, and the standout musical number is "Cabin Fever," a zesty lament expressed by everybody aboard Captain Smollett's ship. In other numbers even tiki gods and human skulls sing out, providing a chorus. There's lots of swordplay and pirate action, but never fear: "Muppet Treasure Island" is a G-rated movie if there ever was one.

* MPAA rating: G. Times guidelines: The film is suitable for all ages.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Muppet Treasure Island'

Tim Curry: Long John Silver

Kevin Bishop: Jim Hawkins

Billy Connolly: Billy Bones

Jennifer Saunders: Mrs. Bluveridge

The Puppeteers: Dave Goelz, Steve Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Kevin Clash.

A Buena Vista release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Jim Henson production. Director Brian Henson. Producers Martin G. Baker, Brian Henson. Executive producer Frank Oz. Screenplay by Brian Henson, Jerry Juhl & James V. Hart; suggested by the Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Cinematographer John Fenner. Editor/Associate producer Michael Jablow. Costumes Polly Smith. Music Hans Zimmer; songs by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. Producer of visual effects Thomas G. Smith. Production designer Val Strazovec. Art directors Lucy Richardson, Dennis Bosher. Set decorator Simon Wakefield. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.

* In general release throughout Southern California.

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