Mildly entertaining and funny is the best you get from Gulliver’s Travels. Another thing is that it is called Gulliver’s Travels, but it really has very little to do with Jonathan Swift’s novel. He does wake up tied up on a beach by many tiny people who he is now a giant to. Gulliver is taken in by the tiny inhabitants of Lilliput. That is where the similarities end. The rest is created for us by director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Shark Tale) and the zany, frenetic acting of Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock). Might have sounded like a good combination on paper, but it doesn’t quite work out.
Gulliver (Jack Black) works in the mail room. He is smitten by Darcy (Amanda Peet – 2012, Something’s Gotta Give), the travel editor at the newspaper. New co-worker Dan (T.J. Miller – Cloverfield, She’s Out of My League) tries to push Gulliver to ask Darcy out. Instead of that happening, after five days on the job Dan is promoted to head of the mail room, so he is now Gulliver’s boss. Gulliver is now totally bummed.
One night late at work just Gulliver and Darcy are left there alone. He goes into her office to ask her out, but chickens out grabbing a writing assignment application instead. Gulliver can’t write, so he steals travel reviews from Time Out and other travel magazines. Darcy is impressed so she gives him his first real assignment. Gulliver is off to Bermuda to write about the Bermuda Triangle. He will be off the grid for 3 weeks.
Out on a boat in the middle of the ocean, Gulliver runs into a huge storm. He wakes up on a beach where he has been tied down by a bunch of tiny people. Gulliver is brought back to King Leopold’s (Emmanuel Quatra – Paris) castle in Lilliput. Put in prison he there meets Horatio (Jason Segal – from television’s How I Met Your Mother), the only other prisoner. Horatio was put there by General Edward Edwardian (Chris O’Dowd – Pirate Radio, Bridesmaids) for looking at his betrothed, Princess Mary (Emily Blunt – The Young Victoria, The Adjustment Bureau).
Gulliver turns from prisoner to hero when he saves Princess Mary from the invading Befucians and then saves King Leopold from perishing in a fire. The King sends out a search party to try and find Gulliver’s boat. Once they do they set about repairing it. In the meantime they build him a great house. Gulliver begins to really enjoy his time in Lilliput. This feeling is exacerbated after he learns that Darcy has discovered that he stole the articles and tried to pass them off as his own. She is really angry at Gulliver as she now has to go off to the Bermuda Triangle and write the article herself.
Playing Cupid, Gulliver tries to help Horatio woo the princess. It begins to work and Princess Mary tells General Edward she doesn’t think they should get married as they’re not in love. Angry, Edward goes to the Befucians with a plan to kill the Beast/Gulliver. He helps them build a robot and attacks Lilliput and Gulliver.
When Gulliver admits to the Lilliputians that he has been lying about his life and what he is at home they banish him to the island where they dare not go. Darcy, who was also caught in a storm, washes up on the beach and Edward captures her.
Things turn worse when Princess Mary tells Horatio she cannot run away with him. She will have to marry Edward. Horatio finds Gulliver and tells him Darcy’s been captured. The two then go off to save Lilliput.
Swift’s novel was a social and political critique of the British government that most just enjoyed as a fun fantasy novel. Letterman and Black have tries to up the fun portion and lessen the message portion. There is still the message of it is how big you are on the inside that counts, but it really is subsumed amidst all the crass humour that focuses mainly on the differences in size between the small people and the giant. After a while even despite Black’s considerable comedic talents the jokes become predictable and boring.
Even the hugely talented actress Emily Blunt is transformed into a brainless twit of a beautiful princess. Disappointing! She tries her best, did get some laughs from me, but even her talent cannot dig her out of this deep hole.
There are lavish sets and costumes and high quality special effects going for it. However, they are not enough to rescue this disaster. The problem wasn’t that they attempted to modernize the classic fairy tale. The problem is that it is simple-minded and largely unfunny.
-I Don’t Know…With Lemuel Gulliver
-Little and Large
-Jack Black Thinks Big
-Gulliver’s Foosball Challenge
-War Song Dance
-Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character Jack Black
-Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character Jason Segal
-Life After Film School Rob Letterman of Gulliver’s Travels