Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gulliver's Travels

Directed by Rob Letterman.
2010. Rated PG, 85 minutes.
Jack Black
Jason Segel
Emily Blunt
Amanda Peet
Billy Connolly
Chris O’Dowd
T.J. Miller
Stewart Scudamore
David Sterne

Occasionally, even actors who’s personas proceed them like to stretch their wings. They like to step away from what they’re known for, if for no other reason, to prove they can do something different. This is not that movie. The latest version of the classic tale Gulliver’s Travels is pure Jack Black through and through. Either he cracks you up, or he doesn’t. There isn’t much else to tip the scales in the movie’s favor. That’s because the story constructed around his hijinks and shenanigans is merely bland when it is at its very best. Most of the time it just takes all that’s good from its source material and pummels it into submission.

Our new Gulliver (Black) is a mail-room clerk at a New York City newspaper. Despite his near constant big talk he seems destined to remain at the same station in life until dying alone. In a desperate attempt to prove he’s more than hot air he decides to ask out writer Darcy (Peet) whom he’s had a crush on for five years. He botches this so bad he accidentally winds up with a promotion and gets assigned to write an article on the Bermuda Triangle. Yup, that’s what I said. Once in the legendary Triangle he’s sucked in by a heinous looking storm, knocked unconscious and deposited on the shores of a place called Liliput. When he wakes up he finds out he’s literally a giant, taller than their tallest buildings and he is being held captive. The Liliputians are also constantly battling their neighbors, the Blefuscians. That’s about all this movie has in common with the original story. From there, we get the normal Jack Black routine: anatomy and bodily fluid jokes, pratfalls, other sight gags and more empty big talk. Some of it is funny, most is not. Imagine another Black vehicle, Kung Fu Panda without the charm, animation or kung fu.

Since all of this plays out pretty much as expected, there is no reason for people who aren’t Jack Black fans to bother. It is precisely what he’s come to be known for. If you’re a fan of the original story, or even of earlier screen versions of Gulliver’s Travels I suggest you avoid this movie at all cost or you will be severely disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something fairly innocuous, have at it.

MY SCORE: 3/10

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