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Gulliver's Travels (3D)


Stars: Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Chris O'Dowd, T J Miller, James Corden, Catherine Tate, Emmanuel Quatra

Director: Rob Letterman

It’s important to realise that this latest take on Gulliver isn’t a Jonathan Swift film – it’s a Jack Black movie (he’s credited as a producer) and so what we get is a youngster-friendly – as George and Felix can attest – comedy inspired by Swift and then efficiently tailored as a star vehicle by screenwriters Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller, who pitch Black into Lilliput among the little people and briefly into Brobdingnag but leave out Gulliver’s travels to Laputa and the Yahoos (maybe later - remember how much Hollywood loves sequels).

So what we get is New York newspaper mailroom clerk Black conning editor Peet – whom he fancies – into believing he is a writer and sending him on an assignment to the Bermuda Triangle. The Triangle lives up to its strange reputation and Black ends up in Lilliput where, once he is freed from his bonds, it doesn’t take him too long to prove himself a giant among men, act as matchmaker to commoner Segel and princess Blunt, make an enemy of army leader O’Dowd and take on Lilliput’s enemies before briefly ending up in Brobdingnag dressed as a female doll and being force-fed milk from a bottle by a gigantic little girl.

It’s Black’s vehicle and he drives it vigorously if without much subtlety. Which is just fine for its target audience – if there’s one thing kids really enjoy it’s watching adults make idiots of themselves and Black (“I may be a beast but I have feelings”) doesn’t disappoint. His boasting amuses: when the Star Wars fan (he plays with Star Wars dolls back in Manhattan) claims to be the US President he adds that in his absence “Vice President Yoda can run things for me for a while”. Comic touches include him urinating on a burning building to dowse a fire but before you complain to the censors it’s worth pointing out that that is actually from Swift’s original.

Given their (literally) small roles (Peet apart), the other actors acquit themselves well enough. The special effects that reduce the crowds and then enlarge Black’s giant child bottle feeder are effective, as is the well-used 3D cinematography. Swiftian purists may purse their lips, but that’s the movies for you.

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
93 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 23 Dec 2010