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O. C. LIVE | KIDS ON FILM

Muppet Movie's Music Leaves Some Singing a Different Tune

In "Muppet Treasure Island," Tim Curry (as Long John Silver) and Kevin Bishop (as Jim Hawkins) join Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat and a ship full of new puppets to sing their silly way through Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure story. (Rated G)

February 22, 1996|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Are the Muppets for kids anymore?

Let's see. Gilbert & Sullivan-type songs with fast-and-witty lyrics. Characters with nearly unintelligible accents. Jokes about Miss Piggy's chronically dysfunctional love affairs as a pig who loves men who hate pigs.

Though the movie tries--via explosions of gunpowder, sword fights and threats of gunplay--to reach children weaned on action films, some could barely keep their eyes open through all the singing and talking.

Korrie Sparks, 7, and brother Tyler, 3, were interested as long as action dominated the screen, said Korrie's mother, Diane Sparks of Long Beach.

But when the talking went on too long, they dozed off.

Some children had to be carried out after deciding their own conversations were more compelling. Others stayed and squirmed.

"There was too much singing," complained Randy Stift, 10, of Irvine. "It was like every other minute," added pal Tyler Dugan, also 10, and also of Irvine.

Robert Solomon of Irvine (who brought his sons Ryan, 11, and Kevin, 9) said the highlight for him was the songs--with lyrics such as, "Don't cry for me, Benjamina" and "I could have been a lawyer, but I have too much heart."

His children could only muster faint praise for the movie, calling it "pretty good."

Of course, for younger children, the music was one of the few things they understood--and those kids were dancing in the popcorn-filled aisles.

The familiar puppets, icons of a modern Sesame Street childhood, also brought a rush of recognition and delight as they continued their efforts to educate.

After they encounter the peg-legged Long John Silver, Gonzo tells young Master Hawkins: "One leg, Jim. Count 'em, one."

The highlight for Conner Jerald, 3, of San Clemente, was seeing Kermit as Capt. Smollett (in a tiny wig and bow).

For his sister Lauren, 5, still dancing afterward, it was the star-crossed couple, Kermit and Miss Piggy (as Benjamina, a suspiciously rich inhabitant of the treasure-less Caribbean island).

Their friend Colbie Dilbeck, 3, was impressed with a different star. "I liked the boy," she said, referring to the movie's humans, who nearly stole the show from the puppets.

Kevin Bishop was sweet and sincere as the courageous orphan son of a former ship's mate who finds the treasure map and persuades a half-witted bear to finance the journey.

Tim Curry, a master of the evil eyebrow and nefarious laugh, turns the greedy Silver into an adult orphan who's also capable of friendship and tears.

One girl, however, didn't buy his dual nature, nor the gentle finale.

Instead of the film's happy outcome for Silver, the 7-year-old said, Jim should have shot him.

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