Movie Review: Gulliver’s Travels

Like 'School Of Rock' - but crapper and with littler people

It may be cruel to suggest that Jack Black is so portly the need for CGI Lilliputians to convey his giant status as the titular Gulliver is unnecessary. Yet it’s merely stating fact that the comedian’s newest film, an adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s 1726 tome Gulliver’s Travels is a lazy one – and one that’s borderline dire.

Gulliver’s newest outing takes minimal risks. Directed by Rob Letterman, whose previous achievements include Shark Tale and Monsters Vs Aliens, the book’s material – Gulliver becomes the leader of the Lilliputians, but how much does power corrupt? – lends itself to an adult orientated, non-kid alienating treatment. Instead the new movie ignores the third and forth sections of Swift’s 18th century satirical fantasy and instead fleshes out the running time with lowest common denominator trash (at one juncture, a Lilliputian will descend into Black’s bottom).

Perhaps such laziness is fitting; few actors have had an easier last decade than Black, who, with the exception of 2008’s excellent Be Kind Rewind, has spent the years since his breakthrough role in 2000’s High Fidelity merely turning up for work and playing himself under a variety of different names. His portrayal as Gulliver is no different; our ‘hero’ remains hard rock obsessed. He still likes Star Wars. It’s enough to make you suspect the actor has possessed one script throughout the entirety of his career, albeit one covered with Tipp-Ex and with brief amendments on each page.

Even as lighthearted adventure, the adaptation barely manages to register a pulse. The places Gulliver visits are ugly, not otherworldly. His emotional journey is convoluted, then unsatisfying in its resolution. Talented comedic actors like Billy Connolly and Catherine Tate are cast as vacant bystanders to a performance by Black that doesn’t so much phone it in, but thinks about doing so before lackadaisically forgetting the number to call. Black’s take on Gulliver’s Travels may be released in the closing days of 2010 – but there will be few less impressive films in the year to come.

James McMahon