Who’s In It: Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Billy Connolly, Chris O’Dowd, T.J. Miller
The Basics: Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) is a lowly mailroom clerk with no aspirations and a crippling inability to approach his crush Darcy (Amanda Peet), the beautiful travel editor at the newspaper he works at – until the day he lies his way into her good graces and is assigned a travel writing gig in the Bermuda Triangle. Caught in an unusual storm at sea, Gulliver washes up ashore and finds himself in a fantastical land called Lilliput, heralded as a giant hero by the feudal kingdom of little people who reside there. When Gulliver’s tall tales catch up to him and his newfound admirers discover he’s a phony, he steps up to take responsibility for the first time in his life.
What’s The Deal: Were you longing for another Jack Black vehicle full of signature Jack Black buffoonery, rock ‘n’ roll riffs and pudgy sight gags? You got it. That Gulliver’s Travels is based on Jonathan Swift’s 18th century satirical novel is sadly merely incidental, as this kid pic is much more concerned with giving Black’s big, familiar persona room to play than it is with saying much of anything. Yes, there’s a superficial “message” to be found in Gulliver putting himself out there in life and in love, but the lessons learned are fairly irresponsible overall: Lie and you’ll lose other people’s trust -- at least, until you earn it back with a grand gesture -- and ultimately you’ll get everything you never knew you wanted, including a cherry job at a major metropolitan newspaper and the woman of your dreams. Gulliver’s Travels perpetuates the ultimate irresponsible male fantasy: With no ambition, no skills, and no interests outside of playing Guitar Hero, even the schlubbiest coward can get ahead in life.
What’s Worse: Gulliver’s Travels packs the added punch of being fairly inappropriate for young children. Sure, the kiddies might eat up the ridiculous sight of the ginormous, defiantly tubby Black repelling a barrage of tiny cannonballs with his gelatinous girth, flesh wobbling in slow motion like Jell-O. They might marvel at the simple visual trickery of seeing Black first as a giant in Lilliput, then dwarfed by an even larger Brobdingnagian child who then forces him to wear a dress and throw tea parties in a dollhouse. The children will not know to weep silently for Black and his co-stars, wasting their talents in this misguided family flick -- but they might come home repeating lines like “I’m a lame ass!”(not to mention another surreptitiously delivered phrase only spoken by rappers in derogatory contexts) before trying to pee on their friends. You’ve been warned.
Worst On-Screen Death Of The Year: The State’s Joe Lo Truglio appears for two seconds as a Lilliputian officer named “Butt Crack Man” who finds himself in the wrong place at the worst possible time, frozen in horror as Jack Black’s gigantic exposed anus falls squarely on top of him and swallows him whole. He’s never seen again.
The Fitting Conclusion That Gulliver’s Travels Deserves: The film ends with -- what else? – a musical number. Nobody escapes unscathed from Jack Black’s warbling rendition of Edwin Starr’s “War,” a cover that’ll have you swapping the lyrics for “Gulliver’s Travels -- What is it good for?” in your mind as you leave the theater.