Gulliver’s Travels

If Jonathan Swift were alive to see his satire brought into the 21st century, he would weep. Weep, not because Gulliver’s Travels is a terrible film, but because of what it might have been.Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) is an aimless mailroom guy at a New York newspaper. Wanting to impress Darcy (Amanda Peet), the travel editor with whom he is enamored, Gulliver plagiarizes a series of travel articles which results in him being deployed to cover a story about the Bermuda Triangle. Shipwrecked in a storm, he awakes to find himself tied up on Lilliput, an island inhabited by six-inch-tall people. Gulliver is initially regarded as a beast and a spy from neighboring Blefuscu, but he wins over the Lilliputians by thwarting a Blefuscan attack and saving the King of Lilliput (Billy Connolly) by putting out a fire with his urine. Gulliver regales the Lilliputians with fraudulent claims about his life, drawn mostly from films like Star Wars, Titanic and Avatar, but it all falls apart when the Blefuscans get the better of him.Gulliver’s Travels starts off well enough; it’s inventive, makes good use of 3D technology and is mildly amusing. Jack Black pretty much plays himself throughout the film (did you expect anything else?), and toilet humor is surprisingly limited to the aforementioned urine sequence and a scene where Gulliver falls on a Lilliputian who vanishes into his backside. Most laughs come from the Lilliputians’ depictions of Gulliver’s “life story;” reference humor of a higher grade than the sort seen in Friedberg and Seltzer’s alleged spoofs.Despite the promising set-up, the film never rises to great heights (pun intended) and simply planes ineffectively to a predictable end. More could have been done with its talented cast as the hilarious Billy Connolly and Catherine Tate (the Queen of Lilliput) are reduced to dull bystanders. Jason Segal (Horatio) and Chris O’Dowd (General Edward) have their moments though, as does Emily Blunt (their shared romantic interest, Princess Mary).Gulliver’s Travels is watchable, but to really enjoy it you have to be a fan of Jack Black and reference comedy, and you have to believe that conflicts can be resolved by singing a 70s anti-war song—the film’s “highlight”.