Director: Rob Letterman
Released: December 26, 2010
Rob Letterman’s experiences with DreamWorks’s well-received animated features Shark Tale and Monsters Vs Aliens are utilised well in Gulliver’s Travels’ visual field. The costumes, CGI and the sets are the principle triumph of a comedy for younger viewers that won’t rock the world of anyone over 15.
The problem is Jack Black, here playing (yet again) the chubby thirty-something slacker who loves rock music and finds anyway he can to wriggle out of doing a day’s work. As Lemuel Gulliver, he works in a mail-sorting office for a big media group. To win the favour of the frankly out-of-his-league Amanda Peet, he spoofs to her that he is a travel writer and gets assigned to the Bermuda Triangle. After a monstrous storm, he awakes to find himself bound and captive by the Lilliputians à la Jonathan Swift’s 18th Century source novel.
Among the nobility governing the island is the snooty General Edward, played with expert timing and dastardly dimness by our own Chris O’Dowd who is settling into Hollywood comfortably. You’ll also see Billy Connolly and Catherine Tate, a king and queen of UK comedy, in the roles of, well, the king and queen. Black, meanwhile, is a giant and slightly obnoxious fish out of water, turning their beautiful Baroque city into his own playground after winning over this society of little people.
Much of the humour relies on Black’s face-pulling and oafish carry-on, which is now wearing thin even for his fans. Typecast so regularly that performances are interchangeable (his musical number in the finale is a near-lift from School of Rock or any Tenacious D music video), Black can now be categorised a one-trick pony. A scene or two work, particularly those where O’Dowd is involved, but otherwise Gulliver’s Travels is throwaway hangover fodder, big on goofiness and small on invention.