Gulliver’s Travels
dir Rob Letterman
scr Joe Stillman, Nicholas Stoller
prd Jack Black, Ben Cooley, John Davis, Gregory Goodman
with Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Chris O'Dowd, TJ Miller, Billy Connolly, Catherine Tate, James Corden, Emmanuel Quatra, Olly Alexander, Joe Lo Truglio
release US 22.Dec.10, UK 26.Dec.10
10/UK Fox 1h27
Gulliver's Travels
Super-sized hero: Black

segel blunt pet
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel is given the Jack Black treatment in this lively, colourful romp, which isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is. But the childish rudeness will keep children giggling.

Lemuel Gulliver (Black) works in the mailroom at a New York newspaper, where he torments a young colleague (Miller) and pines after the travel editor (Peet). After convincing her to let him write a story on the Bermuda Triangle, he's shipwrecked in Lilliput, an island populated by people who are 6 inches tall. There he befriends Horatio (Segel) and helps the King and Queen (Connolly and Tate) fend off their rival neighbours, becoming a hero in the process. But the Princess (Blunt) has a pompous suitor (O'Dowd) who plots Gulliver's downfall.

There are plenty of things to like about this film, including nicely understated themes about unambitious guys who get a chance to prove themselves. On the other hand, the movie is preoccupied by special effects and Black's mugging humour, and the filmmakers indulge in both of these so thoroughly that the story becomes irrelevant. In this simplistic narrative, world peace can be achieved by merely performing a goofy karaoke rendition of the 1970 hit War ("What is it good for? Absolutely nought!").

Pop culture references fill the movie, which was clearly made by boys who grew up in the Star Wars generation. And the screenwriters also make some deranged nods (mocking James Cameron's special effects-based work seems a bit rich), while the Lilliputian court mangles the English language hilariously. Of course, there's also continual toilet humour, some of which is genuinely disturbing if you think about it.

The plot covers the first two, and most famous, chapters of Swift's classic with a merrily energetic pace that will make sure no one's bored. Black does his usual shtick in the role, which doesn't stretch him at all, as it were. And the supporting cast of British comics is wasted (only O'Dowd gets to let rip). Visually, the effects are decent even if they never exploit the 3D. And the whole thing has a whiff of a franchise-launch about it. Which makes the movie feel almost scary.

cert pg themes, vulgarity 11.Dec.10

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