Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Jonathan Swift’s classic novel is once again revisited for another retelling of his strange sea-faring travelogues. This modernized version stars pudgy funny-man Jack Black as our titular hero, a proverbial little man stuck in a dead-end job in the mailroom of the New York Tribune. Motivated by a crippling crush on travel editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet), Gulliver pretends to be an aspiring writer during a misguided attempt in wooing her.
Darcy assigns Gulliver a fluff write-up to get started, covering the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. This is of course when things turn strange as he gets caught up in a stormy cyclone and washes up upon the little shores of Lilliput. The little guy is now a literal giant among the miniscule citizens of this miniature island kingdom and is subsequently embraced as their hero.
This loose (and we mean downright baggy) adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels sticks mostly with Lilliput except for a brief detour into an island of giants (presumably Brobdingnag) for the duration of the film. This is done so that our gargantuan hero can pretend to be an even bigger shot than he is by spinning even taller tales of his stature back home in the island of Manhattan (between the islands of Staten and Long).
Gulliver claims to be everything from the President of the United States to purporting the plot of Star Wars as his life story. Many mildly funny reference-heavy gags follow as pop-culture in Lilliput becomes centred on their giant general. As they say, the bigger they come, the harder they fall and when Gulliver is set-up to fail by a jealous rival, he has to man-up and actually become the courageous protector he claims to be.
It’s a fairly standard story replete with a couple of obligatory romantic subplots to boot. Black does his usual shtick, which hasn’t been funny since School of Rock, and the adventure plods along colourlessly to increasingly predictable beats and depreciatingly juvenile humour. That last critique isn’t necessarily a drawback since this is a family-oriented romp. Kids will likely find the antics and jokes novel but parents be warned, you may be yawning or checking emails on your phone regularly.
There are a couple of genuinely chuckle-worthy moments such as a cute (Terry) Gilliam-esque wordplay gag about formal regency language as spoken by Lilliputian royalty. Stuff like that feels very much like the sparkling style of screenwriter Nicholas Stoller (Get Him To The Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) but unfortunately that kind of wit is largely offset by a barrage tedious pop-culture parodies likely attributable to co-writer Joe Stillman (Shrek The Third).
Gulliver’s Travels doesn’t aim to be anything more than harmless family-friendly entertainment and I suppose it succeeds in that respect. However when the bar is that low, it’s hard not hurdle over it. Kiddy fun doesn’t always have to be childish and brainless as movies like Toy Story prove. One just hopes that more films of this ilk would have the ambition not to look down on the little people.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.