Gulliver’s Travels *

Genre: Adventure / Comedy

Director: Rob Letterman

Writers: Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller, based on the book by Jonathan Swift

Cast: Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Chris O’Dowd, Catherine Tate

Running Length:  85 minutes

Synopsis: This particular iteration of Gulliver’s Travels is about the voyage of Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black), a mail clerk at a Manhattan newspaper office, who agrees to travel to the Bermuda Triangle in order to get into the good books of Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet), travel editor of the paper. Once there, he encounters freak weather and winds up in the country of Lilliput, populated by “little people” only six inches tall. After being imprisoned briefly with fellow prisoner Horatio (Jason Segel), Gulliver manages to befriend the royal family – King Theodore (Billy Connolly), Queen Isabelle (Catherine Tate) and Princess Mary (Emily Blunt) – and becomes the protector of Lilliput, much to the disgruntlement of General Edward (Chris O’Dowd). 

Review: Jack Black can be an entertaining actor in the right movie, but sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Gulliver’s Travels is one such film – it’s basically Jack Black being Jack Black, and in the most annoying way possible. In fact, Black’s Gulliver is so juvenile and unlikeable that it seems almost impossible to identify with and root for the protagonist of the story – and knowing from the very beginning that it will be a happy ending actually grates even more. Irritation factor aside, the biggest negative about Gulliver’s Travel is simply that it’s not an entertaining movie to sit through. 

Needless to say, apart from the central theme, nothing has carried over from Jonathan Swift’s original story. In fact, the producers chose to modernize the story with unnecessary references to Star Wars, KISS, Times Square and Transformers (believe it or not), which doesn’t make the plot any more interesting that it is (not that it is, by most measures). The pacing is uneven, and the preamble before Gulliver beings on his journey is protracted and uninteresting. Coupled with the supposedly funny antics of the leading man – which, to me at least, are not in the least funny – and it becomes an 85-minute movie that’s quite hard to sit through. 

Surprisingly, even the visuals aren’t up to par, which is surprising for most movies employing CGI these days. The CG work incorporating Gulliver and the Lilliputians is serviceable at best, and dodgy at worst, with much it somewhere in the middle. What’s truly unnecessary – and this is becoming the norm these days – is watching this film in 3D. There’s really no creative use of the third dimension, so once again it’s a money grab that would leave you with nothing much else apart from strained eyes and a potential headache. The best thing about watching Gulliver’s Travels? The five minute short film before the feature starts, starring everybody’s favourite prehistoric squirrel, Scrat, from the Ice Age franchise. 

Rating: * (out of four stars)

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