Normally, the previews of a film can actually suade one’s opinion on the actual presentation itself. Take Avatar, I knew when I went to see this movie that no matter what, I was in for something special. Sometimes you may go to watch a movie which you had been anticipating, but what ends up happening is you see amazing previews and then the movie itself can’t compare or is kind of lame. This happened with Terminator: Salvation (which I saw in theaters and didn’t care for much, but then re-watched it at home and ended up enjoying it more).
With Gulliver’s Travels, I kind of wanted to see it but I also knew it had the potential to suck. So what happens. I go see it at 10 a.m., which is pretty early to go to a movie for me. The first thing I notice are three terrible previews for what looks to be three of the worst movies ever made. Don’t ask me their names because I have tried hard to block them out of my memory. I think one of them was the new Big Momma’s House sequel. Before the movie even began, I was in a bad mood and wishing I was anywhere else.
This could only help Gulliver’s Travels because it had nowhere to go but up. And suddenly I see Gulliver (Jack Black), and I instantly relax and try to fall into the story.
Oh yes the story. Well if any of you have read Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, you will be disappointed to know that this movie only delves into Part 1 of the classic novel – A Voyage to Lilliput. Other Hollywood adaptions have all done the same. Not sure why, because there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the other parts of the book.
There is about five minutes worth of the film which sends Jack Black to what I can only presume is Brobdingnag – land of the giants. The other lands traveled to by Gulliver in the book include Laputa (land of the intelligent), Glubbdubdrib (land of the magicians), Luggnagg (land of the immortals who age, as opposed to staying young forever like a vampire), and Japan (land of the Japanese). These are to me, much more interesting stories, but the land of Lilliput is the necessary starting point. I would like to see a series made simply because it could only get better, but somehow, I doubt that will happen.
We are introduced to Gulliver who is the head mail clerk for a New York magazine (all filmed in Toronto naturally). He does not appear to be headed anywhere else in his life but where he is, dropping off mail at the office where he works. He interviews some guy named Dan (T.J. Miller) – who was apparently already hired and actually starting his first day, but yet Black still interviews him. Both Dan and Gulliver begin working together and Dan quickly finds out that Gulliver is a bit of a slacker as well as being secretly in love with a travel journalist named Darcy (Amanda Peet) whom he is unable to ask out.
Dan quickly gets promoted to Gulliver’s position and then tells Gulliver that he will never go any further in his life than where he currently resides. “We’re the little people,” he says to Dan, who later tells him: “You’re never going to get any bigger than this,” (With dialouge like that, perhaps becoming a screenwriter is a better career path for me). Oh yeah and he will never ask Darcy out either, because he is basically a nobody and has no guts.
So Gulliver decides to go ask Darcy out, but at the moment of truth, chickens out and instead says he is there to apply for a travel journalist job. With a little deception, he is able to land the job and his first assignment is to go sailing to The Bermuda Triangle and find out what all the fuss is about. Gulliver’s boat crashes and somehow sends Gulliver to the land of Lilliput, which is inhabited by little people (about 1/12th our size). It is here that the story takes off.
Gulliver’s Travels is pretty funny, and I am a fan of the book so I did enjoy it. It takes a while to develop from Hollywood story to the actual parts which relate to the book but I was fine with that. Some of the humor is cheesy, some of it is funny; some situations are believable, others seem ridiculous. As an adaption of Part 1 of Gulliver’s Travels, it does well to capture the heart of the story into an 80 minute movie.
Although is Jack Black’s movie, but there are other contemporary actors here who do well with what they are given to work with. Gulliver’s love, Darcy is almost a side note to the story though. She is the reason Gulliver goes, but he almost just as quickly forgets about her upon his arrival. General Edward (Chris O’Dowd) does well as the conniving nemesis to Gulliver. Horatio (Jason Segal) is Lilliput’s only prisoner before Gulliver arrives, as well as it’s tallest man at 6 1/2 inches. He also is in love with the Princess of Lilliput (Emily Blunt) who easily puts in the best performance of the movie as the neglected and trapped princess. Segal and Blunt probably have more chemistry than Black and Peet.
Oh yes, and this movie is in 3D. Unfortunately, it is without question, the worst 3D I’ve ever seen, including back in the 80s when 3D was first introduced and I saw Freddys Dead: The Final Nightmare (ha!) in 3D. Gulliver’s Travels was scheduled for a release last summer, but then moved to the holidays and converted to 3D. Clearly this was done just to make a few extra bucks, and that just isn’t fair. But what can you do?
Overall, the movie is never meant to be taken too seriously. Black does his best to have fun with the role (doesn’t he have fun with all of his roles), as does the rest of the cast. The gags are modernized with Star Wars, Titanic and Avatar references, as well as the great iPhone still getting reception in Lilliput and amazing its inhabitants. This movie could have been great and at the same time, this movie could have been terrible. In the end though, it slides nicely into a middle ground of decency.
Despite some poor 3D and weak dialogue, the film has its moments and is just enjoyable enough to get a passing mark.