DVD Release Date:  April 19, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2010
Rating:  PG (for brief rude humor, mild language and action)
Genre:  Family
Run Time:  93 min.
Director:  Rob Letterman
Actors:  Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Chris O'Dowd, T.J. Miller

In School of Rock, Nacho Libre and even in giant animated form in Kung Fu Panda, Jack Black uses his schlubby frame and silly, over-the-top antics to great comedic effect.

But after a while, his same ol' shtick could use some serious updating, and that's probably never been more apparent than in Gulliver's Travels. Based very—and I mean very—loosely on Jonathan Swift's classic novel, Gulliver's Travels basically borrows from Black's rather limited supply of potty humor shenanigans and hopes that'll suffice in the humor department.

Rather than focusing on any of the original story's compelling themes, not to mention its inherent wit and whimsy that made it so timeless in the first place, the modern version relies on a slew of very unfunny jokes that are often far too adult for children and much too juvenile for adults to appreciate, meaning not one, but both of the film's target audiences were missed completely.

Adding the proverbial insult to injury are the garishly cheap visuals that only look worse for the wear in 3D. While certainly not the first time where the new technology has done absolutely nothing to enhance the overall viewing experience, save for majorly increasing the ticket price, it's a particularly glaring misstep in Gulliver's Travels.

Given the wildly imaginative nature of the source material, it would've actually benefited greatly from the extra pop that great 3D gives the picture. But for whatever reason, everything lacks a real attention to detail and looks like it was merely cobbled together in only a few weeks, just one of the many reasons it's difficult actually getting drawn in.

Not exactly helping matters is that this version of Gulliver (Black) isn't all that interesting or admirable anyway. Sort of an overgrown man/child with minimal ambition and questionable hygiene, Gulliver works in the mailroom of a New York City newspaper. Hoping for a big break in his love life with the lovely travel editor he admires each and every day (Amanda Peet), he makes his best pitch with writing samples he lifted from the Internet, praying that somehow she'll be impressed. And while he doesn't land a date, he gets a deadline for a pretty sweet assignment instead, namely a story about the Bermuda Triangle.

However, as you've probably expected, Gulliver never makes it to his assigned final destination. While en route, he drastically veers off course and ends up smack dab in Lilliput, a place inhabited by lots and lots of microscopic townspeople including a princess (Emily Blunt), a snarky commoner who eventually becomes Gulliver's best friend (Jason Segel) and a feisty general with some serious jealousy issues (Chris O'Dowd).

Of course, Gulliver and the Lilliputians don't exactly get off to the best start, but when he puts his girth to good use by deflecting a slew of cannonballs, he's quickly celebrated for defending their tiny kingdom. In fact, his reward for his positive contributions to the community is full use of the city's workforce, which he naturally uses for very selfish purposes befitting of his burgeoning ego.

Surprisingly, things only get worse (and aimless) as the minutes tick by. For whatever reason, the screenwriters seemed to run out of ideas fairly early on, which only serves to fuel Black's improvisational fire. Before long, he's belting out the requisite rock 'n' roll cover song, and then for reasons the filmmakers only seem to understand, a giant robot battle breaks out that goes on and on and on, even if you have absolutely no idea what they're fighting for.


And so goes the course of Gulliver's Travels … a movie that's in desperate need of a GPS and a leading man with a few more comedic tricks up his sleeve to actually make the journey feel worthwhile.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.

  • Language/Profanity:  One of the characters thinks that being called a "lamea--"—is actually something noble, and it's repeated several times.

  • Humor:  There's definitely some potty humor, particularly when Gulliver pees on a fire to put it out. And in another scene, one of the little people actually goes into Gulliver's rear end. Gulliver also isn't shy about sporting some plumber's crack from time to time.

  • Sex/Nudity:  When a woman asks a man why he likes her, he points at her breasts. Without missing a beat, she tells him that's not appropriate.

  • Violence:  Mostly of a comedic variety. One scene involving a skeleton is a bit scary.

 

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.