When I was young (and, admittedly even in my older years) I always thought that the story of Gulliver's Travels would be so cool if it happened to me. Imagine traveling to a country where everyone was itty-bitty. You were bigger and stronger than anyone who lived there. You could smash buildings with a stomp of your foot, or destroy whole armies with one swipe of your hand. It's sad that the new 'Gulliver's Travels,' starring Jack Black, does away with all the childlike wonder of the original story and instead thinks it would be funny if Gulliver peed on a palace fire to put it out. I understand that the pee scene is in the original book, but the movie lacks any acknowledgement of the satirical view of Jonathan Swift's book. Instead the pee scene is just there for a few cheap laughs instead of being a comment on the pettiness of government and its leaders.
Yeah, that's about the extent of comedic talent going on in this movie, which is a shame because I like almost everyone involved. I'm a fan of Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, and even Jack Black when he's given the right material to work with. Black, as Lemuel Gulliver, is nothing more than… well, Jack Black. This shtick works in something like 'School of Rock,' but here it's just worn way too thin.
Gulliver works in the mail room at the fictitious newspaper The New York Tribune. He hasn't set his sights too high. He enjoys delivering mail and doesn't dare talk to any of his co-workers who actually write for the paper. They're much higher and mightier than he. He has a crush on the travel editor, Darcy (Amanda Peet), but can't get up the guts to ask her out. So, he plagiarizes a few writing samples and pretends to be a travel writer in disguise. Completely disregarding the dire financial straights of the newspaper industry, Darcy gives Gulliver an assignment to fly down to Bermuda and check out that whole Bermuda Triangle thing. Gulliver is issued a boat that he doesn't know how to captain, given coordinates that he has no idea how to get to, and sets out to sea alone. Yep, it all seems very plausible. Then he encounters a giant tunnel of water that spits him out into the land of Liliput where he encounters tiny people who tie him down and treat him like the "beast" he is.
From here on out it's basically a sketch show where the movie puts Jack Black into situations and wonders what would Jack Black do if he was surrounded by tiny people? So he urinates on a fire and douses a few citizens for good measure, he uses his soft beer gut to thwart the cannonball attacks of oncoming miniature attackers, and he orders the people to build him a giant house complete with media room where they can act out movies like 'Star Wars' and 'Titanic.'
The laughs are few and far between, but there are some. I chuckled here and there, but in the end it's another remake that didn't necessarily need to be remade. The effects are done well, and the set design, including a miniature palace and Times Square are perfectly constructed.
Sadly though, the movie lacks the heart and satirical commentary of Jonathan Swift's original story. It replaces it with Jack Black's antics. Another loud American doing obnoxious things in a strange land, only this time the land is inhabited by tiny people.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Gulliver's Travels' comes to Blu-ray in a combo pack from Fox which includes the movie on a 50-GB Dual Layer disc and a DVD copy which also contains the Digital Copy.
From the neat looking opening credits to the endless CGI doctored scenes, 'Gulliver's Travels' looks exceptionally solid on Blu-ray. It's 1080p picture is colorful, and never hints at any underfunded green screen work.
The movie was shot digitally, and does contain a few of the problems we usually see with these kinds of movies. Noise becomes a little cumbersome during darker scenes, and blacks aren't always as deep as they could be. The movie doesn't have that filmic look that we seek out. Having said that, colors are rich and plentiful. The miniature work is shown off in great detail with the palace and the surrounding areas of Liliput constructed with the utmost attention to detail.
Black is blended well with the variety of green screen effects applied around him. The video presentation never makes any of the effects look bad. Fine detail during close ups features more pores and fine hairs than you can count. This is a solid presentation by Fox.
'Gulliver's Travels,' when it was released in theaters, had a full 7.1 mix attached to it. Fox, however, has seen fit to mix this Blu-ray release with a standard DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just saying that it would have been nice to have the full theater sound reproduced on this Blu-ray.
We still get a fairly lively affair with the 5.1 mix. Ambient noise is constant and engrossing. Tiny people chatter away in the rear channels as they wonder who this new giant is. LFE booms whenever Gulliver takes a step or when he's escaping from the ropes that have fastened him to the ground. Dialogue is clear and intelligible. Panning effects work smoothly as is evidenced by the sea battle where hundreds of tiny cannonballs whiz towards Gulliver's stomach only to be turned back by his flabbiness.
Fans of the show will most likely be enthralled by this audio presentation, but it's disappointing that Fox saw fit to not give us the true theatrical experience on this release.
'Gulliver's Travels' is mindless and boneheaded. It has maybe a handful of chuckles tucked away in its mess of a movie. What is it about modern comedy writers that think bodily functions mean humor? A guy gets crushed by Jack Black's half-covered butt and sucked up into his butt crack. Yeah, pure comedy gold. The video and audio are solid, but it would have been nice if Fox saw fit to include the theatrical 7.1 presentation along with this Blu-ray. There's quite a few special features, but they're pretty much all promotional fluff. Even though the overall score rounded out at three stars, you should still skip this one. You won't be sad that you missed it.