December has been one cold month for good movies at the theater this year, and Gulliver’s Travels doesn’t change that. Remember the Jack Black that stole High Fidelity and blew everyone away with School of Rock? Don’t look for him here, he is nowhere to be found. In his place, we have an overweight guy playing the buffoon, reminiscent of the latter days of Chris Farley before he took his dirt nap.
In Gulliver’s Travels, Black plays Lemuel Gulliver, a guy celebrating ten years working in the mail room of a major New York newspaper when the film opens. After a new, young hire (T.J. Miller) is immediately promoted to head of the mail room on his first day of work, Gulliver feels like this is a sign that he should do something to break out of his rut. The travel editor of the newspaper (Amanda Peet) mistakes his attempt at asking her out for a date for asking for a job assignment, and one plagiarised writing example later, Gulliver is on his way to Bermuda. Falling asleep on his speedboat, he travels into the Bermuda Triangle, only to awaken tied to the ground and treated as an animal by the miniscule Liliputians. The Liliputians are led by King Theodore (Billy Connolly), his daughter Princess Mary (Emily Blunt), with an army directed by the cruel General Edward (Chris O’ Dowd).
In all honesty, I don’t know if what I perceive as the films failings are truly its’ faults or more mine as a critic. When you review a film like Travel’s, you are supposed to accept it for what it is, not what you wish it were. That said, I knew it was a lost cause in the scene where Gulliver first arrives on Liliput. He awakens to find himself tied down, so he breaks out of his ropes and stands up. The General orders his soldiers to drag Gulliver back down with grappling hooks, which they soon do. To do so, the grappling hooks pull down his pants, exposing his butt crack. As Gulliver falls, it is clear someone is going into that crack. That someone? Talented comedic actor Joe Lo Truglio, who most of you probably know best from his part in Superbad as the creepy guy that drove Seth Rogen and Michael Cera to the party to get alcohol, and then ended up getting assaulted by Kevin Corrigan. Truglio is a scene stealer in every project he appears in, and he was hired for Travel’s to look up, say “Oh no,” and literally never be seen again. What a waste.
I will admit that the kids in the theater loved it though, so there again, what do I know? I’m not exactly the audience the studio is trying to bring in on Christmas Day. When they read a script that includes a scene where a giant Jack Black puts out a house fire by peeing on it, and everyone inside and around it, they don’t think, “Oh, the folks in their 30s will love this!” Then again, I’m sure there are some parents that will laugh along with their kids.
Gulliver’s Travels is a film starring tired acts, reading cliched lines, performing unfunny actions, surrounded by more talented performers. I can’t recommend it for anyone over the age of two, but if that butt crack scene sounds up your alley, knock yourself out.