Published Dec 22, 2010Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels this is not, which would be fine if it were something other than a slight excuse for Jack Black to run around like a literally giant man-child breaking into inexplicable song. This Lemuel Gulliver is a broad pop culture geek ― Star Wars and Avatar, don't expect even a Blade Runner or Star Trek reference to give his nerdiness some cred ― who manages the mailroom of a lifestyle magazine and lacks ambition beyond finding slack time to play Guitar Hero at work.
Spectacularly wussing out on asking his crush, travel editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet), on a date, Gulliver instead grabs a submission form to become a travel writer. A little internet plagiarism later and Gulliver is on his way to check out a story on the Bermuda Triangle. His boat is sucked into a water vortex and he wakes up in Lilliput, covered in tiny humans. The setting is about as deep as this adaptation digs into the classic source material. Instead, we're treated to a bland exercise in meeting expectations, however low they may be. Gulliver's the misunderstood prisoner until his size gives him the chance to become the Lilliputian's savoir, letting his bladder do what the fire department can't.
One must wonder if this scene is an intentional pissing on the purpose of the original tale. Swift's satire is swept away, replaced by cheap mugging and limp pop culture jabs that play more like advertisements. Gulliver isn't making any observations about Lilliputian culture; he's imposing his self-obsessed worldview on them. Acting as a deity, or a lazy despot, Gulliver exploits the industrious Lilliputians, acting as a true friend to only Horatio (Jason Segel, limited wearing a straight-man jacket), his former prison buddy who's in love with the princess, only he's not of proper social standing. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
You've seen every aspect of this story play out a million times. A quick excursion to another island where size ratios are reversed is tacked on with little purpose beyond adding a few minutes to the film's short run time, and to dress Black as a baby doll. That appears to be the extent of director Rob Letterman's vision. Not a moment of Gulliver's emotional growth feels earned, but that hardly matters in a film as uniformly uninspired as this. It's also in 3D, but you'd never notice if it weren't for the mandatory glasses, making the extra cost as pointless and insulting as the rest of this train wreck.
If you enjoy Jack Black doing his thing, even when there's no reason for him to, you might find Gulliver's Travels a mildly acceptable diversion. Otherwise, it'd be more entertaining to picture the g-forces Jonathan Swift is accumulating while spinning is his grave. (Fox)