Gulliver’s Travels isn’t the enticing journey of adventure and satire it should be, it’s not even a jaunt.
Gulliver’s Travels is merely a thinly disguised platform for Jack Black to serenade audiences with his usual jiggling, monkey-man-madness shtick.
The 'epic adventure tale' is set up as more a background or launch pad to make a variety weak jokes involving trousers falling down and how much urine a giant would produce. It’s amazing, considering the original story is a masterfully crafted adventure story with astute social satire, how this retelling has been reduced to a couple of crudely painted fairy tale love stories. Strip it down a bit for cinema, sure, but leave some substance in.
Jack Black plays Gulliver, a dreamer low on self-belief who works in the mailroom at a New York newspaper. After plagiarising a couple of articles to impress the travel editor Darcy (Amanda Peet), with whom he is not so secretly in love, he is sent on an assignment to find the Bermuda Triangle. Then, of course, Gulliver awakes stranded and tied up in Lilliput, surrounded by an army of diminutive folk.
Chief inhabitants of Lilliput are British actors once again being humbly degraded as stalwarts of snobbery and class supremacy. It’s your basic Pirates of the Caribbean set up. There’s the king (Billy Connolly), whose beautiful daughter (Emily Blunt) is to be married for political reasons to the military prodigy (Chris O'Dowd). But wait, the lowly Horatio (Jason Segel – the hero and only American little person) is really in love with the princess, although being of lower class he couldn’t possibly dream of crossing such social boundaries.
'Hey', screams Gulliver, 'that shit’s all wrong'. Can Gulliver get Horatio to get his groove on? Hell yeah! So Gulliver gives Horatio awful advice on getting with the ladies, all the while bemoaning his true love, Darcy, who eventually lands on Lilliput herself. Along this tiresome path littered with sickly sweet sentiment, we learn blatant, overly explicit lessons like ‘lying is wrong’ and ‘believe in yourself’.
Wait a minute, what about the flying island and all the shenanigans with the giants of Brobdingnag and the mélange of fascinating travellers Gulliver meets along the way? That all got cut for puppy love, Kiss Guitar Hero and a vaguely humorous bit in which Gulliver gets the Lilliputians to re-enact various scenes from major blockbusters like Titanic and Star Wars, claiming this is the story of his life – though this really only emphasises just how derivative this telling of Gulliver’s Travels is.
Jack Black is let off the leash more so than in any of his previous films. But though his uniquely confrontational slapstick style can add quirk and colour to characters, it is overused to a fault here.
Gulliver’s Travels isn’t the enticing journey of adventure and satire it should be, it’s not even a jaunt. It’s just a pointless belly flop to a sea of cliché infested disappointment.
Has ‘butchering a classic’ written all over it, but will Black be on form?
Unfunny, unconvincing, too much jiggling, not enough story.
Everybody involved should be made to apologise… and mean it.