Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Opens Christmas Day, 2010, Rated PG
Starring Jack Black, Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet
Directed by Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Shark Tale)
As you may have heard, big things come in small packages. But also on occasion, small things are found in big packages. With the new Gulliver's Travels, we get a humongous gift wrapped in 3D paper, only to find emptiness once inside. What I'm saying in less than poetic terms is, Gulliver's Travels in one of those Christmas gifts that you will want to return almost immediately, because it's awkward, loud, and just doesn't fit.
The Plot. Gulliver's Travels of course, is a book originally written in 1726 by author Jonathan Swift. As the title implies, the story follows Lemuel Gulliver and his many fascinating trips around the globe. Although he travels to many different types of strange lands, the most popular is Gulliver's trip to the kingdom of Lilliput, a society made up of "little people", maybe 1/12 the size of humans. This makes Gulliver a giant in their world. This voyage to Lilliput is usually the focus of the more moder retellings of the tale, and is the focal point of the movie as well.
So in this movie version, Jack Black is Lemuel Gulliver, and despite his jolly stature, he is a very small man. He works in the mail room of a publisher and sees newer employees promoted right past him. He doesn't have the courage to ask out a fellow employee (Peet), but he talks a tremendous game. These early scenes are pretty funny, especially for Jack Black fans.
When Gulliver lies his way to a reporting assignment in the Bermuda Triangle, he finds himself shipwrecked in Lilliput. Big and important for the first time in his life, he is first treated as a "beast" but he grows on the people of Lilliput when he helps defend them against a rival kingdom. He befriends Horatio (Segal), and helps him win over the lovely Lilliputian princess, Mary (Blunt).
Size Matters. Of course, the heart of the story is about the importance of being "big" on the inside. It's not your job, relationship, or physical appearance that makes you a big man, it's the decisions you make and the courage to confront your fears. It is also an 87 minute excuse to watch Jack Black be a complete buffoon with material that is clearly pint-size in quality.
What a Pisser. With the PG rating, Jack Black is limited to trying to make us laugh by shaking his belly and making weird faces. The movie is definitely family friendly, but absurd and ametuerish enough where many adults may regret buying a ticket. The best "family" movies, like the recent Disney animated film "Tangled", are entertaining enough to engage the younger audience, but include enough adult humor and in-jokes to keep us entertained too. If a giant Jack Black urinating on a castle as the only means to put out a fire makes you laugh, then by all means go see this movie. To say the movie is a pisser would be very accurate.
Larger Than Life. The "message" of the film unfortunately is washed away (no pun intended) in the gross out gags and otherwise lame humor that overwhelms the movie. This is also one of the many recent movies that really has no business being seen in 3D, as it doesn't really add much to the story or to the entertainment value. I like Jack Black, but I realized while watching that I may like the PG-13 or R rated version of him more. Mixing him in with a totally miscast Jason Segal, the two just fall under the giant weight of the film's mediocrity.
I did like some of the pop culture references, as Gulliver is treated as somewhat of a savior by the Lilliputians. As the film neared it's conclusion though, an almost unwatchable dance sequence confirmed to me that this movie was a complete dud. It's should have taken it's own advice that bigger doesn't always necessarily mean better.
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