Young Jim Hawkins on a sea-faring adventure on board the SS Espaniola, armed with a coveted treasure map and pursued by the devious Long John Silver.
A year before the equally star-studded Hook hit the cineplex, is the Robert Louis Stevenson chestnut in a made-for-TV rendering seen through the eyes of Jim Hawkins (Bale) as his rites of passage.
Rather than coming to terms with girls/his parents/life after high school as per usual, Jim achieves maturity by killing a couple of grown-ups and saving his shipmates. Otherwise, this is a faithful movie adaptation and looks good too, from the squalor of British quayside inns to glorious Jamaican lagoons, and the reappearance of the replica HMS Bounty as first seen in 1962's Mutiny On The Bounty.
Though a rattling good action/adventure epic, it over-establishes Silver's treachery, Hawkins' maturing, Trelawney's oafishness and so forth. The violent and obsessive trail of Flint's treasure halfway across the globe is punctuated by unnecessary soul-searching which pads out the film by half an hour. But Christian Bale reprises the excellence of his performance in Empire Of The Sun, and Heston romps wildly between deepest West Country and twinkle-eyed Celt those who recall TV's Captain Pugwash will chuckle warmly at such barnacled terms as "swab", "me hearty" and "avast". And, of course, Oliver Reed is marvellous as the rum-swilling taproom brawler Cap'n Billy Bones over-acting, or not acting at all? It's a shame he's tipped the Black Spot so early on.
Worthy swash-buckling family adventure