Jack Black as Lemuel Gulliver
Jason Segel as Horatio
Emily Blunt as Princess Mary
Amanda Peet as Darcy Silverman
Billy Connolly as King Theodore
Chris O’Dowd as General Edward
T.J. Miller as Dan
James Corden as Jinks
Catherine Tate as Queen Isabelle
Emmanuel Quatra as King Leopold
Olly Alexander as Prince August
Richard Laing as Nigel Travel Writer
David Sterne as Foreman
Stewart Scudamore as Blefuscian Captain
Directed by Rob Letterman
In order to impress his paper’s pretty travel editor (Amanda Peet), slacker Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) takes on an assignment to sail through the Bermuda Triangle, instead ending up in the land of Liliput where he towers over the people and gets caught up in a war between them and their enemies, the Blefuscians.
There was a time when Jack Black’s schtick was fresh and new and yes, actually quite funny, but those days are pretty much gone and anyone who thinks that Jonathan Swift’s beloved literary classic, that has stirred many imaginations, could possibly be revived as a big screen adventure featuring Mr. Black, might be better off putting any wishful thinking to rest.
Produced by a couple of DreamWorks Animation alum along with Nicholas Stoller, who was responsible for one of the funniest movies of 2010, there’s substantial reason to hope so many comic minds could come up with something that’s not just another dumb kid’s movie, but something clearly went wrong in the long road from conception to completion.
Black’s character Gulliver works in the mailroom and he wants to impress the pretty travel editor, played by Amanda Peet, so he takes on an assignment to the Bermuda Triangle, but instead ends up in the land of Liliput whose tiny inhabitants are so out of touch with the real world, they believe all of Gulliver’s lies making him an even bigger man on campus than he is physically. The one person who doesn’t buy into his stories is the kingdom’s General Edward, played by Chris O’Dowd, who, when he isn’t wooing the king’s daughter Princess Mary (played by Emily Blunt), is trying to find ways to discredit “The Beast.” Mary also has another suitor in Jason Segel’s Horatio, and you can probably guess where that distracting subplot is going.
For 85 minutes, Black hams is up in every way imaginable, not only just chewing up the CG scenery, but making himself so annoying even his most ardent fans might have enough. You know what? It was funny in “High Fidelity” and it worked for “School of Rock” and in “Tropic Thunder,” but now Black is taking his act so past any limits of control that one wonders whether the director finally just threw his hands up in the air and let cameras roll, hoping to save the movie in post. This is the side of Black that tries way too hard to play down to a kiddie audience who might appreciate watching a giant clown prancing around and acting crazy, even if the obligatory face paint and red nose is missing.
The movie just isn’t funny. There are barely any laughs in the movie unless you are a complete and total moron who’s been huffing paint fumes for a few hours. Even worse than Jack Black, if that’s even possible, is the awful attempted accent by Jason Segel who does a fine job crapping on all the good will he’s gotten from his funnier R-rated comedies. The same goes for Emily Blunt and Billy Connolly, who really should be doing better things than this. Romany Malco even got his name removed from the credits it seems.
Possibly the biggest travesty is that there are a number of things in the movie that are completely inappropriate for younger kids. One exchange between Gulliver and the general has him calling him a “lameass” and another conversation with Segal’s character, trying to help him talk to the princess, using terms like “sexy.” Considering how impressionable kids can be and how they tend to imitate what they hear, I’m sure few parents will be happy having their kids adding those words to their vocabulary. It’s almost as if the filmmakers were trying to have it both ways by including humor that might appeal to Black’s teen fans but making the entire film so moronic only kids would appreciate the rest of it.
The movie isn’t a complete loss since the special FX are fairly well done and there are a few ideas that don’t completely get mucked up, like the Japanese-inspired robot that Gulliver fights, one of the movie’s few high points. The movie is preceded by the 3D “Ice Age” teaser short “Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up,” which is significantly funnier and more clever, showing what a failure “Gulliver’s Travels” is.
If you’re not angry enough after sitting through 80 minutes of this crap, then the situation gets worse when the entire cast breaks out into a musical dance number ala “Marmaduke”–another stinker–because let’s face it, where else can you go after annoying the audience for so long?
The Bottom Line:
“Gulliver’s Travels” is just plain embarrassing in how ill-conceived it is, bad enough that it could easily signal the death of Black’s career as a live action comedy star. Not that it will matter since he probably has ten more “Kung Fu Panda’s” to keep him busy now that he’s going the route of other comedy hacks like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy.