An “X” really does mark the spot on a map in “Treasure Island” — RHI Entertainment’s latest adaptation of a literary classic — but the more pertinent unknown is “why,” as in why anybody bothered. An earnest retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of swashbuckling adventure, this waterlogged project is so stolid and tedious Syfy appears determined to mitigate the damage, presenting the two-part production in one four-hour burst on Saturday night. Some might admire how seamlessly Eddie Izzard’s leg is removed, but the digital wizards might as well have gone a few steps further and erased the whole thing.
Syfy’s press release gamely refers to this as a “fresh, new spin” on the oft-told story, which is about as creative as giving Donald Sutherland third billing for a fleeting cameo as snarling buccaneer Captain Flint, which occupies roughly as much screentime as the average Loch Ness monster sighting.
As is frequently true with these internationally backed RHI endeavors, one suspects the motivation was to piggyback on the success of an existing franchise, with “Pirates of the Caribbean” the inspiration here. If only director Steve Barron and writer Stewart Harcourt could unearth a scintilla of excitement as they seek to abscond with some of that booty.
Aside from pretty scenery, however, and perhaps sympathy for the topnotch British talent who join in the field trip, there’s scant reason to sign up for this voyage centering on Jim Hawkins (a perfectly fine Toby Regbo), a young lad who — having recently lost his dad — stumbles onto a treasure map and embarks on a seafaring adventure.
The quest includes a local doctor (Daniel Mays), a square-jawed captain (“Life on Mars'” Philip Glenister), the foppish nobleman (“The 39 Steps'” Rupert Penry Jones) who arranges the excursion, and of course the one-legged pirate Long John Silver (Izzard), who surreptitiously enlists and eventually takes Jim under his wing. There is also Shirley Henderson (of the “Harry Potter” pics) as Jim’s suffering mom back home and the marooned pirate Ben Gunn (Elijah Wood, amusingly clad in witch doctor garb).
Multiple battles ensue, most of them pretty tepid, as this “Treasure Island” kills more time than pirates. Yes, there’s something to be said for introducing new audiences to the classics, but RHI’s latest stab at mining such material merely demonstrates that unless there’s a good reason to dig them up, some treasures deserve to stay buried.