As we all know, Muppets are the only acceptable puppets. They are our soft friends who are genuinely funny and would never touch us with their weird little felt hands without our permission. That’s right, I don’t want to get felt up by a Muppet, waka waka! (Note to editor: if you cut this joke I will quit the website on principle). When a human enters the world of The Muppets, they typically play the role of a straight man, confused, enraged, or overjoyed by the Muppets’ silly antics. There is one person who refused to be relegated to that boring role in a Muppet movie– Muppet made living flesh, Timothy James Curry.
In my opinion, there are two standout performances by humans in the Muppet universe. First was, of course, Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, giving a completely straight Oscar-worthy performance alongside his co-star, a talking rat. But second, and moreso, was Tim Curry out Muppeting every other Muppet in Muppet Treasure Island. This man was deeper inside the Muppets than any puppeteer. He was out there asking Kermit what he felt his character motives were, and when his puppeteer tried to answer, he said, “Shut the fuck up. I’m talking to KERMIT.”
I firmly believe that Tim Curry method acted this role, not as Long John Silver, the pirate, but as a member of the Muppets portraying Long John Silver, only eating food prepared by the Swedish Chef, playing triangle for Dr. Teeth And The Electric Mayhem on the weekends, having a tawdry on-set affair with Camilla the chicken right in front of Gonzo. It’s the only way he could have possibly achieved the level of human-to-Muppet transformation we see in this film. Tell me, could a normal human make this face? I rate it five out of five Tim Curry’s.
Don’t worry he’s not unhinging his jaw like an anaconda to attempt to eat Jim Hawkins. This is just a throwaway moment in a song about how fun it is to be a pirate where he gives a hearty Tim Curry “HA HA!”. It looks like the director said to pretend to be a baby bird waiting for food. No one was directing him, though! They couldn’t; he would never allow that. This is just Tim Curry being Tim Curry.
I don’t know if any actor has ever been better cast in any film. Only Tim Curry could bring the manic energy necessary to this role. Long John Silver is a father figure, but he’s insane. He’s a pirate but kind of a chill guy, but he’s also got a big knife. There are so many layers. His very first line in this Muppet movie is, “What have we here? Stowaways? I’m afraid we SHISHKABOB and BARBECUE stowaways on this ship!” Then he brandishes a knife at a child and a puppet named Rizzo. It’s terrifying. The first time I saw it I was certain he was going to eat that puppet! “Oh no, is this a movie about a man cannibalizing the Muppets?” I asked my Father—a solid Four Tim Currys.
The intensity of Long John Silver, the bloodthirsty pirate, is evident even when Curry is masquerading as a friendly ship cook. When Kermit orders Long John Silver to get rid of all of the alcohol on the ship, he agrees right away, but for half a second, Tim Curry makes the exact face of a drag queen holding back something really mean she wants to say about your outfit. It’s subtle but painful. In real life, Kermit would never recover from this face. It would haunt him on his deathbed. Three and a half Currys.
Once Long John Silver is outed as a pirate, he adds a pirate hat to his outfit, and his faces become as elaborate as his gold embossed costume. When he smiles at Jim Hawkins, it looks like he’s trying to show us every single tooth in his mouth. Of course, Tim Curry is a noted graduate of the wide-eyes-open-mouth school of acting. It’s the number one acting school for people who own multiple capes. I give this joyous man four Tim Currys.
Now, I’m sure your number one question about working with the Muppets is whether or not it’s difficult to do stunts alongside a co-star with no bones. Tim Curry sword fights Kermit The Frog in this movie, and when Kermit whips out that sword, he looks like he’s never seen anything more impressive in his entire life. And he probably saw Kermit ride a bike in The Muppet Movie. His look of shock, betrayal, and awe gets a full five Tim Currys. No man has ever been more mesmerized by a Muppet.
Another thing Tim Curry brings to this movie that I don’t think any other actor could is his ability to turn a murder threat into a silly, fun time. Treasure Island is probably the most murder-filled story the Muppets have ever covered. While I would love to see a Reservoir Muppets or a Great Muppet Hellraiser, Treasure Island is probably the only Muppet movie we’re going to get where someone pulls a gun on Miss Piggy.
Luckily, it’s our good friend Tim Curry holding that gun, so it’s not that upsetting. He knows how to make the perfect face that says I’m super cranky but not cranky enough to murder America’s most beloved karate pig. That’s a five out of five Tim Curry face if I’ve ever seen one.
Does he have more muscles in his face than the average person? They say some actors can express so much with so little, but Tim Curry somehow expresses so much with so much. You might be wondering if this entire movie is just close ups of Tim Curry’s face, and yeah, that’s a lot of it, and also, it rules. If you’ve got a problem with that, you can take it up with this surprised Tim Curry face, which I give six out of five Tim Currys.
There may not even be any other Muppets in this movie. They were all so upstaged by our Muppet king, nay, Muppet god, Tim Curry, that they all quit. The movie is just Tim Curry now. The article is just Tim Curry now, and that’s all it needs to be. HA HA! Twelve out of five Tim Currys because who’s going to stop me?
The fact that this man won no awards at all for this movie is frankly as insane as the character he plays in it. When Muppet Treasure Island debuted, Roger Ebert said, “It isn’t easy, co-starring with a Muppet, as actors as talented as Orson Welles and Michael Caine have discovered over the years, but Curry’s strategy is to out-act and out-bluster them, and mostly he succeeds.” Ebert only gave the movie two and a half stars overall, but he called out Tim Curry’s performance specifically because he saw it for the work of genius it was. It’s not Tim Curry’s fault he couldn’t elevate the other Muppets to his level. Forty-four Tim Currys out of five.
How is it this man can play a character I mainly associate with a fast food restaurant that always upsets my tummy and yet I go there once a year as if I’ve been cursed by an evil fishstick, and I still love that character so much? That’s the power of the ultimate Muppet. Infinite Tim Currys.
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