Review by Jack Foley
JONATHAN Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a timeless literary classic that served as both a clever satire on human nature as well as an observant take on religion and male falibility.
Jack Black’s update, directed by Rob Letterman, is a crass family comedy that’s more content to provide shameless product placement and endless wedgy jokes.
It’s a travesty that also squanders the talents of a starry comedic cast.
The main ingredients are, however, the same as Black’s shy, luckless mailroom employee Gulliver attempts to impress the woman of his dreams (Amanda Peet) by reluctantly accepting a travel writing assignment that takes him to The Bermuda Triangle.
One storm later and Gulliver finds himself in the mystical land of Lilliput where he is a giant among it’s little people.
At first outcast, Gulliver wins the people over with his made up tales of action adventure (all based around Twentieth Century Fox box office successes such as Star Wars and Titanic) and his ability to single handedly battle the invading Blefuscuians.
But while helping the lovestruck Horatio (Jason Segel) to win the hand of Princess Mary (Emily Blunt), he falls foul of Lilliput’s sceptical general Edward (Chris O’Dowd) and promptly finds an enemy within who would like nothing more than to cut him down to size.
Classic source material aside, Letterman’s film should still have a lot to recommend it owing to the quality of it’s cast (which also features Billy Connolly, Catherine Tate and James Corden) and the fact that the director himself hasva good track record in delivering solid animated family entertainment (he directed Monsters Vs Aliens).
But what really lets everyone down is the (largely improvised) script, which knowingly plays to very young audiences and just wants to dumb everything down.
Hence, a large portion of the jokes revolve around body parts and ways to humiliate Gulliver’s ample frame, while the innumerable product placements slowly begin to grate.
If it were more clever, the film could be seen to be satirising contemporary society’s devotion to materialism but it never comes close to convincing that it has that kind of intelligence.
Even the effects sometimes feel shoddy with certain performers failing to line up with each other’s sightlines.
Of the performers themselves, Jack Black plays Jack Black more than Gulliver (complete with rock god tendencies), so enjoyment also stems from how much you dig his larger than life persona.
Segel, Tate and Connolly are given too little to do, Blunt also struggles with the flimsy material (but still engages) but O’Dowd shamelessly steals every scene he’s in.
The odd sight gag works too (such as Black being forced to dress up in a dress for a stint in a doll’s house), but such fleeting moments cannot save Letterman’s movie from becoming a forgettably juvenile drag.
Running time: 87mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 16, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Jack Black interview
- Emily Blunt interview
- Billy Connolly interview
- Rob Letterman interview
- Gulliver's Travels Photo Gallery