Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Billy Connolly, Jason Segel, Chris O'Dowd and Amanda Peet
Thank goodness Jonathan Swift is not around to see the latest adaptation of his 18th-century masterpiece, Gulliver's Travels.
With only a whiff of accuracy and not a hint of satire, the director Rob Letterman's animated film takes viewers to a very foreign land indeed.
The comic actor Jack Black plays lazy newspaper mailroom employee Lemuel Gulliver, whose secret crush on the travel editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet) prompts him to forge a writing sample to secure a reporter's position.
Successfully promoted, his first assignment is to write about the Bermuda Triangle and a shipwreck maroons him on the mythical island of Lilliput, where he is imprisoned by the miniature inhabitants led by the villainous General Edward Edwardian (Chris O'Dowd).
Gulliver befriends his fellow inmate Horatio (Jason Segel) whose advances towards prissy Princess Mary (played to perfection by Emily Blunt) have landed him in jail.
Gulliver's luck changes when he saves Lilliput's king (painfully overacted by Billy Connolly) and his palace from a fire. More heroic deeds follow and Gulliver's tall tales soon win the hearts of the Lilliputians, making him the big guy in a small town.
The film then makes a series of handbrake-turns as Gulliver escapes the clutches of a gigantic toddler and defends Lilliput from an invasion by the rival island Blefuscia.
Black's hyperactive performance and manic movements are exhausting to watch and the film suffers from a surfeit of wholly unsuccessful attempt by Letterman to raise chuckles from Black's chubby physique. Still, with a cast boasting so many comic veterans, one would expect the acting to compensate for the mediocre script - but that's not the case. Catherine Tate is the most disappointing as Queen Isabelle, giving a performance as stiff as the period corset she wears.
And just when you think the movie can't get any worse, it does.
This film offers little reward to those patient enough to see it through to its conclusion.
If anything, the movie seems to repeat itself with yet more battles (this time with an enemy resembling Iron Man) and further romantic twists and turns for Gulliver.
Black leads the cast to a chorus-line finish: the tune is catchy, the words are cheesy and the life lesson is clear, painfully clear. Certainly not the most creative way to implant a moral message in the film, and arguably what inevitably happens when an adult classic is adapted for a much younger audience. That's not to write off the movie entirely. The sweeping pans and occasional aerial shots of Blenheim Palace in England, which doubles as Lilliput's royal palace, are stunning. But aside from that, it does little justice to its source material and relies far too heavily on special effects.
All in all, this adventure comedy DVD would best be described as a giant waste of time.
Published: May 10, 2011 04:00 AM