I had hoped that a modernization of Jonathan's Swift classic Gulliver's Travels would be an opportunity to introduce a younger audience to the tale. I was skeptical but optimistic when Jack Black, the king of butt-crack humor, was cast in the title role in the 2010 version. Black plays Lemuel Gulliver, a mail room clerk for a big-city newspaper. His career and love life are stalled until a coworker tells him he's already hit his peak. Spurred on to make a change, Gulliver accidentally signs up for a writing assignment from the travel editor, his crush Darcy (Amanda Peet).
Alarmingly, the assignment is in the Bermuda Triangle, and after embarking on the dangerous-sounding adventure, Gulliver ends up in a monster storm and wakes up on the island of Lilliput. As the story goes, he's the tallest man among a populace of tiny people and is imprisoned as a beast until he proves useful to the Lilliputians. The literary framework of the story provides lots of chances to update it — make it newer, funnier, more current — but the effort falls as hard as the clumsy Gulliver.
To find out why I didn't enjoy Gulliver's Travels, just
Plenty of kids' films can please their younger demographic while entertaining the grown-up audience that accompanies them, but Gulliver panders only to the folks who don't see a fart joke coming a mile away. With that said, the first act is actually mildly funny, but once the fantasy element begins, all the laughs are dependent on the cheapest of setups, like Gulliver peeing on a castle inferno, showering the cast with bright yellow liquid. It's not too often you get to see literal potty humor, but there it is.
Black is, unfortunately, the perfect choice to fill the shoes of the giant man-boy, but it's disappointing to see him playing a caricature of himself. It's even more disheartening to see actors I normally love down to this level. Jason Segel as a Lilliputian with a terrible British accent is particularly awful, while Amanda Peet looks genuinely pained to be involved in the film at all. And if I ever want to take her seriously again, I'm just going to have to put the vision of Emily Blunt punching someone and then saying "Boosh!" out of my mind.
Gulliver's Travels is a failure as an update and a comedy; it exploits its source material and cast, and it tests its audience's patience with its abysmal humor. I've warned you: don't take this trip.