TV MOVIE "Treasure Island"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Saturday 7-11 p.m. on Syfy

REASON TO WATCH Eddie Izzard tackles Long John Silver.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ahoy, ye mateys, it's Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of bloodthirsty pirates, buried gold and a boy's coming of age amid seafaring scoundrels. It's high-mast schooners, dockside taverns, tropical beaches and a map where X marks the spot.

Why it's Syfy -- that's another question, but never ye mind.

This "Treasure Island" is darkly colorful, that's the thing, and swift at the start, when the man with the tattooed face whacks his own gunshot leg off just three minutes in. That would be Eddie Izzard -- free-association comic, "Ocean's" movie actor, "The Riches" TV star -- who comes constitutionally equipped to convey the mixed motives of Silver, the one-legged ship's cook cum pirate captain cum mentor of youth.

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He's after that X map, and its track to the gold trove sneakily stolen from the men who originally took the treasure, which was then stolen by Donald Sutherland's cackling Captain Flint. Thus, Silver and his refreshingly polyglot 18th century mates go undercover to retrieve it, crewing the treasure-seeking new world voyage of map-finding teen Jim Hawkins (Toby Regbo) and the less than admirable adults to whom he turns.

MY SAY This down-and-dirty miniseries, now airing in one night, is as odd a duck as the parrot riding Izzard's shoulder. Writer Stewart Harcourt (TV's "Poirot") and Irish director Steve Barron (1998 miniseries "Merlin") hew mostly faithful to Stevenson's grimy tale, staging its bloody incidents on vivid locations in Ireland and Puerto Rico.

The tale's connective tissue, however, is all over the map, literally. So the pace lags, and even thrilling moments start to feel episodic. It's up to the actors to pull us through, and that they do, led by Izzard's dynamic command of a man for whom survival is the only rule. Syfy miniseries always seem to excel at sketching three-dimensional villains. This time, lad hero Regbo shines, too, palpably maturing as he finds his way through all those shades of gray.

BOTTOM LINE Hardly a treasure, but a lively island of adventure.

GRADE B