GULLIVER’S TRAVELS Movie Review
When you watch GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, you wonder exactly what the director, Rob Letterman, saw in Jack Black that made him worthy of the title role. Thankfully, it’s a question that doesn’t take long to figure out. While Black may not be most people’s first choice for Lemuel Gulliver – a nerdy loser-type who ends up in a magical land during a botched trip to the Bermuda Triangle – he does bring a certain child-like innocence to the role, the kind that reminds us that underneath all the clownish antics lies a man who just wants to be accepted and find his place in the world.
Gulliver’s Travels is a modernized (complete with 3D) version of Jonathan Swift’s classic tale that’s simple enough – Gulliver, who works in the mail room of a fancy magazine, is secretly in love his editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet.) Determined to impress her, he lies about his editorial skills and she agrees to send him to Bermuda to do his own travel piece. During his journey, he’s sucked into a maritime vortex and transported to Lilliput, a magical land of little people, ruled by the rather lazy King Theodore (Billy Connolly), whose daughter, Princess Mary (Emily Blunt) is being set up to marry a peasant named Horatio (Jason Segel.) Gulliver impresses them with his tall tales of life in New York and uses 20th century knowledge to help them with their relationship troubles – finally, he’s the big man (literally) in the room and being treated with the utmost respect. It’s the life he never had in his own world that he always wanted, but of course, it’s not reflective of who he truly is as a person.
This is the basic premise of Gulliver’s Travels, and the same could be said of the movie itself, which finds life on the big screen just fine, but doesn’t exactly ring true to its classic tale counterpart. It’s not a terrible film, but you can’t help but wonder what movie visionaries such as Peter Jackson or Tim Burton would have done with the story if given the chance. The special effects are passable for the most part; though you get so caught up in the humor you forget that they’re even there. Since this is a family film, it’s doubtful the kids will mind, but the adults may find themselves wary of the endless amount of bathroom humor and body part gags after an hour or so.
Aside from the acting – Black, Blunt, Connelly and Segel all put in fine performances, and Peet does well considering her small role – the strongest points of Gulliver’s Travels are also what lead to some of its problems. Audience members above a certain age will appreciate the suavely thrown in references at modern pop culture such as Star Wars, Guitar Hero and Titanic (among others.) But Gulliver’s Travels spends so much time trying to bring the film to a modern day stature that it seems to forget the true heart of the screenplay. Rather than spending time on cultivating relationships with characters and helping the audience to understand them beyond the humor, more time seems to be spent teaching them how to say modernized slang words.
The success of Gulliver’s Travels will be showing the world that Black is indeed capable of doing more than just dancing around with a guitar in hand, and the movie will certainly provide laughs this holiday season…but that’s about all that can be gained from Letterman’s venture.
Gulliver’s Travels a cute film, perfect for the holidays and for those children who need a laugh, but for the adults over 10, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of interest.