you read Jonathan Swift’s classic parable Gulliver’s Travels while
growing up, chances are you will find very little that you recognize of that
tale in this new film, which shares the book’s title and basic premise and
not much else.
Unless I’m forgetting the chapters that Swift wrote about the giant robots,
theatrical staging of scenes from Star Wars, the sing-along version
of Edwin Starr’s “War” and the novel approach of dousing a raging fire with
is classic children’s literature being dumbed down to incoherence. If this
is what we need to do to make Gulliver’s Travels palatable to the
kids of today, then there is probably no real reason to continue telling the
story. I’d rather never have children hear of the world of Lilliput than
have them think that is was like this.
the newfangled Travels, Gulliver is an overweight loser (played by
Jack Black, who is typecast in that role by now) working at the mail room at
a local newspaper. He is harboring an unrequited crush on the gorgeous and
sweet editor at the paper (another career pit stop for Amanda Peet, who once
upon a time looked like a pretty comedienne to watch). For some reason she
likes the big galoot, too, and when he lies and says he is a writer, she
allows him to try out for the travel section.
Since he can’t really write, he copies some stuff from Berlitz and hopes she
won’t notice. (There is a strange and disturbing little recurring
undercurrent in which Gulliver’s Travels seems to be condoning and –
even kind of recommending – plagiarism.)
is so impressed that she sends him to do a story about the Bermuda
see what is coming, don’t you?
Gulliver is in a shipwreck. He wakes up on a tiny island, populated by
people the size of his fingernails.
Despite the fact that he is large enough to swat away armies of the
Lilliputian men, he is soon captured and held prisoner. He eventually wins
them over through derring-do and bad sophomoric humor, essentially becoming
the hero of Lilliput and transforming this magical kingdom into a version of
Times Square, dedicated to him.
course there is a bad guy there trying to show him up – and he isn’t above
throwing in with the Lilliputian’s mortal enemies to do it.
However, Gulliver befriends a young Lilliputian (Jason Segel, completely
wasted in the role) who was also jailed, because of his courtly love for the
princess of Lilliput (Emily Blunt is scary bad here, like she can’t believe
that she somehow was talked into doing this film and thus she refuses to
commit to the character at all).
leads to stupid battle scenes, the beloved travel editor somehow washing up
on the same island, and way too many scenes of Black with his shirt off.
Really, the estate of
Jonathan Swift should be suing the makers of this film for what they have
done to their ancestor’s work.
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: April 19, 2011.