Review: Gulliver's Travels

Jack Black's Gulliver tries not to take the Lilliputians lying down.
Jack Black's Gulliver tries not to take the Lilliputians lying down.

(PG) **

Director: Rob Letterman.

Cast: Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Billy Connolly, Chris O’Dowd.

YOU won’t necessarily be rolling in the aisles during this umpteenth version of Gulliver’s Travels, but 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift is no doubt turning in his grave.

The tale of Lemuel Gulliver has been reduced to a lengthy riff on its best known chapter — the one about the tiny people of Lilliput — with jokes about wedgies, urinating on fires and a Lilliputian being squashed under Jack Black’s flabby bum.

Black moulds Gulliver into a version of his usual persona, the loser with delusions of grandeur, who accidently busts out of his newspaper mail room go-nowhere job by agreeing to take on a travel writing assignment from his secret crush (Peet).

Somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle he is whisked away to Lilliput, where the bite-sized inhabitants soon proclaim him as a hero and Gulliver begins to relish the view from the top. But the invading forces of Befluscia, Gulliver’s web of lies and a rivalry with Lilliputian general Edward threaten to cut Gulliver down to size, which is pretty small in Lilliput.

As family entertainment, Gulliver’s Travels is so-so. The kids will be momentarily distracted by the cheap laughs to not notice the sub-par special effects, drab plotting and tiresomeness of Black’s man-child antics.

It’s not without its laughs. Connolly gets the best lines and the deliberately hammy performances of Blunt and O’Dowd are enjoyable but Black’s schtick — so hilarious in High Fidelity, Tropic Thunder, Be Kind Rewind, Tenacious D and School Of Rock — feels tired and, to quote Gulliver, a bit "lameass”.

For the PG-aged youngsters this is OK, and the film has its moments, such as Gulliver’s showdown with a giant robot (I kid you not), but for the most part, it’s just silly and simple without being overly funny or fun.