By: Oberst von Berauscht (Six Pack) –
Jack Black is the sort of comedian whose natural improvisational humor is capable of bringing laughs to even the weakest scripts.Unfortunately, as Director Rob Letterman’s Gulliver’s Travels proves, there is an event horizon that can be reached in film.And once this is crossed, no amount of natural talent is going to save you from the exponential amount of suck this black hole of cinema is capable of producing.
Gulliver works for the mailroom at a newspaper and is madly in love with one of the editors.One day he lies about his credentials to get a job as a travel writer and sails for the Bermuda Triangle.Here he is caught in a maelstrom, shipwrecked, and winds up in the country of Lilliput, where people are tiny… and somewhere in there Jack Black gives Billy Connolly and Chris O’Dowd a golden shower.
I really tried to think of something positive to say about this movie.And I suppose there are two or three decent laughs to be had… but even a broken watch manages to be right twice a day. The concept seems interesting enough.Gulliver’s Travels was a classic of literature, and one that has yet to see a definitive screen adaptation.The last major attempt was this made-for-T.V. affair, starring Ted Danson as french actor Christopher Lambert:
Take a swig for the acting.Even Jack Black seems to be struggling in this one.I can understand that the people of Lilliput were meant to be somewhat melodramatic.But nobody seems to care about the material here.The performances feel like that of a middle school drama class, and the actors appear disinterested in just about every scene.Amanda Peet especially seems to be taking the paycheck and running.
Much of the acting may be excusable due to the god-awful dialog and screenplay.If the writers concentrated a bit more on character development and less time on pumping the script with forced pop culture references, maybe we’d have something novel here.Aspiring filmmakers take note; if you just reference other people’s work all day, you don’t have to write anything original.
The film’s biggest elephant in the room is the robot built to fight Jack Black.Lilliput is depicted as a culture whose technological knowhow is commensurate with the early 19th century.Based on the time frame approximated in the film, they had a little more than two weeks to build it.And the robot that they built is far too complex to be believably built in so little a time.Even considering this film as a flight of fancy, a dream world whose reality is unbound by physical law, it feels like a reach.
Suspension of disbelief is an important factor in appreciation of fantasy cinema.Sometimes major flaws in characters and plot development may be forgiven if the effects artists offer something beautiful, immersive, or at least unique to look at.I wish I could say this was the case for Gulliver’s Travels, but the plain truth is that the CGI effects are average at best.The green screen effects remind me of the original King Kong, and while they may have been stunning for their time, here it feels archaic.Perhaps it would have worked better if the film was entirely animated.But then, Night at the Museum accomplished a similar task with style and is a perfect example of a weaker story made watchable by great effects.
What is the best way to end a movie when you are lazy and have no good ideas?
A big film made by people with very small ideas, and even smaller brains.
Bonus Drinking Game
Drink a Beer: whenever Lilliput is named
Drink a Beer: for every “Fat” joke
Down a Shot: every time Jack Black makes a music reference