Review

Gulliver's Travels Review

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Dec 23, 2010 | 12:30pm EST

You have not lived until you’ve watched people get peed on in 3D. I certainly never thought I’d live see it least of all in a PG movie but thanks to Rob Letterman’s execrable Gulliver’s Travels the latest installment in Hollywood’s ongoing “Gang-Raping the Classics” series I can now cross it off my bucket list. Merry Christmas to me.

The scene in question occurs in the film when Jack Black's title character is confronted with a raging fire in the tiny town of Lilliput which threatens to consume its castle and much of its miniature citizenry. Being Jack Black he improvises the only solution we can expect from a character played by Jack Black: He drops trou and unleashes the contents of his own firehose thus extinguishing the fire and becoming a hero to the Lilliputians who appear far too pleased to be doused in urine. They're downright giddy in fact. It’s by far the film’s most memorable scene (indeed I fear it is permanently etched on my brain) and it’s cause to wonder: Since when are golden showers considered PG-appropriate? Has the MPAA been suddenly overrun by creepy sex fetishists and water sports fanatics? If so perhaps the producers of Caligula might with to have their film re-evaluated.

Black might as well have pissed on Jonathan Swift’s grave for all the reverence he and director Letterman display for the author’s source material. Swift’s story about a traveler who becomes marooned on an island filled with people one-twelfth his size has been re-worked as a vapid vehicle for its star’s antic stylings. His Lemuel Gulliver is a slacker man-child (sound familiar?) a mailroom attendant at a New York newspaper who bluffs his way into a gig writing about the Bermuda Triangle. But somewhere along the way to the mysterious place he’s swallowed up by an inter-dimensional portal and transported to the Lilliputians' island nation where he lives as a god-clown among them. A variety of misadventures ensue some of which rival the aforementioned urine-soaking scene in their transcendently anti-comic impact until Gulliver finally learns the value of telling the truth and growing up. And we discover that some lessons aren't worth the pain involved in learning them.

I genuinely adore much of Jack Black’s work but he seems determined to personally prove the Theory of Diminishing Returns and dreck like Gulliver’s Travels is nigh-impossible to defend. Perhaps I doth protest too much. Perhaps it’s pointless to get so worked up over what’s essentially a harmless family film. Then again if this is the kind of thing that entertains families these days perhaps society might conceive of a better use for them.

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