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Gulliver's Travels - Movie Review

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Gulliver's Travels - Movie Review

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When it was first announced that Jack Black would be in yet another adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, I actually believe I heard the world sigh.  Not in excitement, mind you.  In grief.  Another example of adaptations gone wrong, we all thought.  Yet, Hollywood went ahead with the project.  The resulting movie is an absolute gloomy turd of cynical holiday marketing and even more cynical Hollywood misdirection.  Michael Bay would be proud.

Jack Black, playing the same loser-type character he always does – except this time he likes rock music and the celebrated nerdiness of Star Wars, stars as Lemuel Gulliver.  He lies about his job as a well-trained travel writer in order to impress Darcy (Amanda Peet), who sends him off to explore the Bermuda Triangle (because exploring weird geographical anomalies is exactly what travel writers do).  A massive storm throws Gulliver off track and onto the island of Lilliput, the land of really small people (featuring the acting talents of Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Catherine Tate, Billy Connolly and James Corden) who all want to believe Gulliver’s really tall tales.  Yet, the stories all fall apart and Gulliver loses their respect and what’s left of his.  Both he has to reclaim if he’s going to win over the heart of Darcy…like we even care.

Sound familiar?  It should.  This is essentially a reworking of The School of Rock – without all the rock 'n' roll swagger.  Every bit of this monster is tired.  Black tries his damnedest to be funny.  When he tries so hard at little moments, it just goes south for the film echoing the worst moments of Tenacious D in The Pick of DestinyGulliver’s Travels was adapted by Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller (who knows better than to write this crap), but it might have faired a hell of a lot better if two eight-year-olds wrote it.  This is unfunny low-brow humor intended for...fans of…urinating on fire (which, interestingly enough, is the only scene carried over from Swift’s original tale).  Everything else is replaced with butt and belly jokes and Black’s infamous strut on a never-ending basis.

The direction is credited to Rob Letterman (Monsters & Aliens), but this film seems to be largely the product of unfunny improvisation.  There really is no guiding light behind the camera in this seriously misguided attempt to draw children into a theatre this holiday season.  The jokes are lame, the movie parodies are easy gimmies, and the special effects are unforgivably poor.  The 3D is flat and does not work to enhance the look of this gnarly-toothed beast.  Quite simply, this is an ugly picture.  Segal will survive this picture and so will Black, but, seriously, someone needs to be held responsible for the absurdity of this film.  Blame Stillman & Stoller.  Blame Letterman.  Hell, blame Black.  Someone take responsibility.  Please.

If you haven’t seen Jack Black do rock-obsessed man child act before in Year One, The School of Rock, Be Kind Rewind, Orange County, Shallow Hal, Saving Silverman, or High Fidelity then – for god’s sake – get your head out of the sand and rent those films, but DO NOT GO SEE THIS MESS.

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