Wednesday 11 May 2011

Today's Review: Gulliver's Travels

When Gulliver's Travels was announced, there was a bit of an uproar. You see, the novel by Jonathon Swift is regarded as a bit of a literary classic, and the intention to make it into a family comedy starring Jack Black didn't sit well with the fans. I studied Gulliver's Travels during my time in high school, and since it was a book I didn't despise reading I thought that I could sort of place myself in the outraged fanboy camp. "What are they doing?! This is a classic!" I found myself saying, before realising that in fact I'd only read it once because I was told to and never had again. But hey, perhaps being on more neutral ground I can enjoy this family friendly caper.

Or not. You see, Gulliver's Travels shouldn't just offend everyone that loves the original story, it should just plain offend everyone. It's bad. Really bad. First of all, I can see no reason why this was ever given the name Gulliver's Travels in the first place. They could've called this movie "Jack Black Meets Some Tiny People And Hilarity Ensues" and it would have had the same effect on kids. It seems that the only reason they decided to say it was based on the book was to piss off everyone who's ever read it. The people behind Gulliver's Travels have committed the same pointless crime that Tim Burton did with Alice In Wonderland a while back. They think they're doing an adaptation, but really they're wrenching someone else's characters out of their rightful place and putting them in a story they made up that really has nothing to do with the original at all. At least, I don't recall the part of the book where Gulliver fights a giant robot with electric fists. It probably would've made me more interested.

Sure, the underlying story may be the same, but it's only because the people behind this came up with a half arsed idea that they couldn't be bothered to finish, so they stole someone else's story and put loads of potty humour and pop culture references on top. Job done. Oh wait, no it wasn't, because then they had to do this:

You get a book free if you buy the Blu-Ray. But it's not the actual book of Gulliver's Travels, this is a novelisation of the movie. Even the cover shows how ridiculous it gets. The novel, Gulliver's Travels, based on the film, Gulliver's Travels, based on the screenplay of Gulliver's Travels? I'm sure it would also say that the screenplay was based on the novel Gulliver's Travels, but then it would be obvious how stupid this whole thing is, plus they ran out of space from writing that other stuff. For a minute I thought this movie might be passable because it might get kids to want to read the original, you know, get off their butts for once and enjoy some culture. But instead they've just made a book about Jack Black fighting a robot.

Well, I think I've digressed enough. What's the actual movie like? As I said before, it's bad. Jack Black plays a loser who is inexplicably called Gulliver in the 21st century. He wakes up in the morning and acts out some scenes with his Star Wars toys, so that the older people watching can think "Hey, that's a Star Wars! I know that, and finally I can share something with my child!" while the child thinks "What the hell is this?" Don't worry, the Star Wars thing comes back later as a little callback, but in my mind it was more like "Okay, you've done this already, have you really run out of ideas to put in your 80 minute movie?"

So Gulliver goes to work as a lowly mailroom man, and inexplicably finds himself accepting a writing job that is literally arranged for him by unknown forces during a single conversation. He is to travel to Bermuda and write about things so he can impress the travel editor that he has a crush on. But wait, trouble's afoot on his journey as he's swept into a reverse whirlpool thingy. It's never explained. I never expected it to be. And so he awakens on the island of Lilliput, with small British people poking him.

All the little people are British. The bad little people from the other island are French. Gulliver turns out to be their saviour, and of course he's the American everyman. A bit one dimensional, you might think. You'd be right, because that goes for every single character. There is no development whatsoever. Apart from the inevitable conclusion where the guy who is clearly a loser realises that if he tried a little bit he could not be such a loser, but actually he just wins because he is a giant fighting tiny people. 

There is some semblance of a plot, but only because they lifted it out of Swift's novel. It would be compelling to follow if it wasn't ground to a halt every now and then by Jack Black prancing around the screen in the way Jack Black always does, and injecting movie references and old rock songs into every scene, the way Jack Black always does. Seriously, he's been doing this stuff for years. Do people still want to see this?

Scenes are always, always too short. Which is a strange thing for me to say, because with every passing minute I wished the movie would end. But there are literally scenes in this movie that last a few seconds. There's no clear cut off point, and it just fades to black when you expect something else to happen or be said. There's a part where Gulliver goes to another island that, in a strange turn of events, has giant people living on it. Again, lifted from the novel, but in the context of this movie a complete and utter waste of time, highlighted by the fact that the whole thing lasts for about five minutes, in most of that time Jack Black is dressed as a baby and that there's a scene that starts with Jack Black in a bed, shows him rolling over and then fades to black.

Do not watch this movie. If you have kids who want to watch it, try and get them to watch something else. I actually couldn't see much that would appeal to a child, apart from the electric robot. I guess that's why they threw it in there. But I suppose kids will be kids, if they want to watch it they probably will against your wishes. Just make sure you'll be there at the end to comfort them.

My rating: 1/5
'Cause despite all that is wrong with it, giant electric robots are cool.

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