Muppet Treasure Island Blu-ray offers solid video and audio in this enjoyable Blu-ray release
The Muppets are back in a hilarious adaptation of the classic "Treasure Island" novel. Taking on many of the roles, they interact with human counterparts like the villainous Long John Silver (Tim Curry)
For more about Muppet Treasure Island and the Muppet Treasure Island Blu-ray release, see Muppet Treasure Island Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 23, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island may seem like strange bedfellows, but they're both leading members of the Muppet feature film B-reel; not as clever, breezy or funny as the best Muppet movies, and not as stale, flat or tedious as the Muppets on their worst days. The former, released in 1981, marks the only Muppet feature to be directed by Jim Henson, which makes it a special case no matter the end result. The latter, released in 1996, six year after his death, was helmed by his son, Brian Henson, who took up the reigns of the beloved Jim Henson Company enterprise. Neither film lives up to its predecessor, though -- in the case of Caper, The Muppet Movie (1979), and with Island, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) -- and neither one has found much of an audience outside of the most dearly devoted Muppet fans. Still, The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island are by no means unworthy entries in the series canon, and still hold plenty of joy, laughs and fun for those willing to shrug off each film's flaws and follow Kermit and the gang on whatever adventure... or misadventure they stumble across.
"To wherever the wind may take us!"
With Dickens' "Christmas Carol" behind him, Henson the Younger decided to tackle another literary classic, this time Robert Louis Stevenson's 19th century children's novel, "Treasure Island". More tweaks and alterations are made to the source in Muppet Treasure Island than in The Muppet Christmas Carol, but Henson and screenwriters Jerry Juhl, Kirk Thatcher and James Hart's adaptation remains a relatively, often surprisingly faithful adaptation; one that at least offers a great deal of amusement and pirate-y frivolity in the liberties it takes. (Although the tug of war between the straight and broad bits makes for an uneven tone.) The Muppet players are fantastic as usual, barring a rather grating, never-ending subplot involving Piggy, while the humans are more hit or miss. Tim Curry is terrific as pirate-captain-in-hiding, Long John Silver -- devilishly charming, cutthroat and conniving -- and Billy Connolly earns his brief keep as salty seadog Billy Bones. Alas, Kevin Bishop is a bit of a wash as leading boy Jim Hawkins (even though his scenes with Curry are much stronger), Jennifer Saunders is a nightmare as a weirdly cartoonish Mrs. Bluebridge, and most of the pirate extras should have been replaced by an all-Muppet crew. There are other missteps -- mostly surrounding the meandering plotting and overextended gags used to fill out the runtime -- but it's never an out and out loss. All told, as spot on as much of the film is, some tightening, not to mention a rewrite or two, would have gone a long way toward making Muppet Treasure Island more memorable.
Muppet Treasure Island offers a more attractive and appealing 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation than its disc-mate, but still has a few issues of its own. Specifically a slew of sequences in which color and contrast are dull and undersaturated. Part of the blame lies with John Fenner's photography and the film's original look, unwieldy as it can be, but there's no reason a few adjustments couldn't have been used to lend the palette more consistency. Fortunately, detail is commendable and textures are decently resolved on the whole, with only a handful of shots and scenes that are worse for the wear (most of which pop up near the beginning of the film). Skintones are generally pleasing (despite the dominance of muddier hues early on), primaries pop and blacks are satisfying. There's also little to no macroblocking, banding and other anomalies, bringing Muppet Treasure Island more in line with the still-superior Muppet Christmas Carol transfer.
On the one hand, Muppet Treasure Island sounds fuller, richer and more bombastic than Caper. But all by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 surround track, which dispenses with proper LFE output. The experience still has some weight and heft courtesy of the other channels, but a high seas adventure can use whatever oomph it can get. Otherwise, all is well. Not spectacular, mind you. But all is well. Dialogue is intelligible and carefully prioritized, with only a small sampling of lines falling by the wayside or being drowned in the madcap action; the rear speakers employ light, playful touches, even though directionality leaves something to be desired; and the soundfield is enveloping enough to make the music and songs more involving. Again, I wouldn't call any of it remarkable, but it does what it does without any serious issues.
Audio Commentary: Director Brian Henson is joined by Gonzo and Rizzo on a rather erratic commentary that jostles between stale, albeit occasionally amusing humor and stiff but informative production overview. Decent, but by no means a must-listen.
The Tale of the Story Beyond the Tail (SD, 22 minutes): Gonzo and Rizzo host, and routinely interrupt, this still thorough trip behind the scenes with Henson and other key members of the cast and crew.
Frog-E-Oke (HD, 2 minutes): Sing along with "Cabin Fever."
Music Video (SD, 3 minutes): "Let the Good Shine Out" with Kermit.
Can you ever get enough of the Muppets? Don't answer that. Let's just go with my answer to that one: no, you can't. Give me a stack of Muppet movies -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- and I'll give you my thanks. The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island aren't the greatest Muppet outings, I'll admit, but they have their charms, be it heist-y or pirate-y. Disney's Blu-ray release is tougher to swallow, though, with problematic video presentations, somewhat underwhelming lossless audio tracks, and shortages in the supplemental department. Ah well. We aren't likely to see a better release of either film anytime in the near future, so this at least should allow fans to replace their DVDs. Does Disney's 2-Movie Collection offer the definitive Caper? The ultimate Island? Probably not. I hope not. But I suppose it'll have to do for now.
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