Jack Black is larger than life in this epic comedy-adventure based on the classic tale. When a shipwreck lands a lowly mailroom clerk named Gulliver (Black) on the fantastical island of Lilliput, he transforms into a giant--in size and ego. Gulliver's tall tales and heroic deeds win the hearts of the tiny Lilliputians. But when he loses it all and puts his newfound friends in peril, Gulliver must find a way to undo the damage. Through it all, Gulliver may just learn that it's how big you are on the inside that counts.
I’m a big fan of Jack Black, and not just when he’s hidden behind a rolly-polly kung fu panda, but also when he’s up front and centre doing his crude and crass shticks in “Year One” and “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny”. I genuinely believe that the guy’s a talented comedian, and so it pains me even more to see him in drivel such as this blatant cash-grab of a family film, “Gulliver’s Travels”.
Black plays the travel writer Lemuel Gulliver, who is sent by the editor (Amanda Peet) whom he has a crush on, to the Bermuda on a writing assignment. Gulliver however gets caught in a hurricane out at sea, and ends up shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput where- you guessed it- everyone is much smaller than him. Things are supposed to get interesting at this point, since the highlight of the movie is undoubtedly Gulliver’s interactions with the miniscule citizens of Lilliput.
Unfortunately it doesn’t- the screenplay by Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller is shockingly short of inspiration and laughs. Gulliver is first captured and imprisoned, but after he extinguishes a fire in the royal palace by- erm- urinating on it, he is suddenly hailed as a hero. And that means he’s allowed to put up posters of himself in “Avatar” and get the Lilliputians to stage live performances of his favourite shows and movies (“Star Wars”, “Titanic”), while lying that he’s the president from the country he hails from.
Most of these gags are mildly amusing at best, but a movie they do not make. Instead, Stillman and Stoller let Gulliver be matchmaker for one townsfolk Horatio (Jason Segel) and Princess Mary (Emily Blunt), daughter of King Theodore (Billy Connolly)- which in turn mirrors Gulliver’s own romantic pursuit of his editor Darcy Silverman. And just so there is a climax to speak of, they throw in a little romantic rivalry for good measure, which leads to a Transformers-like battle in the city.
Even so, it’s blatantly clear by the halfway mark that while they may have brought Gulliver to Lilliput, they certainly don’t know what to do with his time there. Equally clueless is director Rob Letterman, who makes his live-action film debut from a background in animated films like “Monsters and Aliens” and “Valiant”- Letterman lets the pace of the movie sag so considerably that despite its seemingly brief 85 min runtime, the movie feels much longer.
Black tries to make up for the thin material by doing his warm engaging best, but there’s only so much he can do to make up for the film’s glaring weaknesses. Ditto for the rest of the supporting cast, including Peet, Blunt, Segel and Conolly, all of whom deserve much better than this dull monotonous film. So too can be said of your time, which ought to be occupied much better than by this unnecessary and unfunny re-imagining of the classic Johnathan Swift satire.
The filmmakers also don’t bother to give credit to Swift’s book, although the references and allusions are clear. Nevertheless, it is for the better then, for I can’t imagine why the author would want himself to ever be associated with this dreck
“I Don't Know With Lemuel Gulliver” has Black as Lemuel Gulliver interviewing Lemuel Gulliver about the Bermuda Triangle. Yes, Black plays two roles here- and even though you can tell that much of it was Black improvising, it says a lot about the main feature when this 5-min special ends up funnier.
“Little and Large” is a featurette on the special effects technology used to create the size differences between Gulliver and the Lilliputians, with a lot of praise reserved for Black and Letterman’s work. “Jack Black Thinks Big” talks about the production design of the island of Lilliput, and how it was styled as a miniature version of New York.
“Gulliver's Foosball Challenge” is a game which mimics Gulliver’s game of foosball against the Lilliputian soccer team- wholly unnecessary if you ask me.
Finally, the “Gag Reel” is just one single outtake and there are eight Deleted Scenes as inconsequential as the movie itself.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio uses the back speakers for a robust surround effect throughout the movie. Visuals are clear and sharp and colours are dynamic.
DVD RATING :
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 26 May 2011