Muppet Treasure Island (Brian Henson)

Rating: ** (out of ****)

As someone who grew up watching "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," and who truly loved The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan, it pains me to announce that I think that the Muppets ought to be gracefully retired. Actually, that's not true; I'm sure that Kermit and Fozzie and Miss Piggy and Gonzo and the gang still give enormous pleasure to children around the world, and that's terrific. Sadly, they don't give me much pleasure anymore; most of the magic seemed to die along with Jim Henson (I should note for the record that Henson's death actually brought me to tears). Muppet Treasure Island, like 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol, feels like an imitation Muppet adventure, and not merely because Steve Whitmire has never really managed to accurately mimic the voice Henson used for Kermit. Everything seems belabored, strained; there's a general sense of going through the motions, and an almost complete absence of the wacked-out inventiveness that made the Muppets unique. Occasionally, a gag made me laugh aloud, but more often I felt sad and embarrassed. Furthermore, the songs are utterly forgettable; clearly based upon the formula Disney uses for its animated musicals, they exhibit neither the lyrical wit nor the melodic muscle of even the weakest Ashman/Menken tunes. Even the usually dependable Tim Curry disappoints, portraying a surprisingly tepid Long John Silver (and let's just pointedly ignore the juvenile lead, okay?). For all the skill and talent of those who worked alongside him, Jim Henson was the Muppets, and without him, his puppets appear almost as hollow as they actually are.