Starring: Jack Black, Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Chris O’Dowd, Billy Connolly, Catherine Tate, James Corden
Classic literature fiends out there will, of course, remember Jonathan Swift’s classic 1726 satire in which Lemuel Gulliver, a squat, air-guitar-obsessed underachieving mailroom supervisor in a Manhattan publishing house writes false travel reports to impress the Girl Of His Dreams and finds himself sent out to report on an island in the Bermuda Triangle. A storm whips him off to Lilliput where he’s a giant amongst little people and he quickly ingratiates themselves amongst the locals by forcing them to build a huge movie theatre where the Lilliputians can re-enact classic Hollywood and by turning the town into a facsimile of Times Square. He also incurs the wrath of the town’s General who ultimately fashions a giant Transformer-style robot so he can take control of the town and banish Gulliver. Hang on, that’s not the book I read…
I’ve always held the naïve belief that no-one really wants to make a bad movie. Of course sometimes circumstances turn something with potential into a bit of a disaster or some dodgy casting can scupper an otherwise worthwhile project. But this woeful remake of ‘Gulliver’s Travels‘, with that star (has the always-irritating Jack Black ever been this punchable?), this script ("Boosh!") and these slightly-dodgy FX should have set the alarm bells ringing well before the tuxedos came out of mothballs for the premiere. This is dumbed-down Hollywood at its very dumbest, lowest common denominator comedy which surely even the most undemanding and slightly-backward child would find irredeemably insulting and offensive. Here’s a film with hardly any redeeming features; this is a movie which does just about everything wrong all the time. It’s not funny. It offers nothing new to the idea of Gulliver and his adventures on Lilliput, it’s happy just to strip everything away and replace it with crass and obvious pop culture references and flat, cack-handed dialogue and humour-free jokes. The writers don’t even have the wit to change Gulliver’s name (who the Hell’s called Lemuel in the twenty-first century??) which is baffling as they saw fit to change virtually everything else about the story.
With Jack Black just playing himself again (put the belly and those stubby legs away now, please, Jack) we can’t help but notice the string of ‘I did this for the money’ British types who’ll surely be tippexing this one off their CV if they’ve got any common sense left. What on Earth was Billy Connolly doing signing up for this twaddle? Catherine Tate’s wasted in a role which gives her about three lines of dialogue and James Corden pretty much disappears after forty-odd minutes. The IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd throws himself into the role of the cuckolded General with some gusto and gives his performance more comedy chops than it really deserves; he’s at least trying to salvage something from this absolute shipwreck of a movie.
Lazy, shoddy, underwritten and dull, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is marginally redeemed only by some decent production design and while the movie’s running time is around 80 minutes actually watching it seems like a lifetime spent in purgatory. Excuse me now while I go and try to wash the memory of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ out of my brain with a big brush. Awful.