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Travel writer Lemuel Gulliver takes an assignment in Bermuda, but ends up on the island of Liliput, where he towers over its tiny citizens.
For more about Gulliver's Travels and the Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray release, see Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on April 19, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Chris O'Dowd
Director: Rob Letterman
» See full cast & crew
Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray Review
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, April 19, 2011
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift's immortal comic satire in travelogue form, has been bastardized, bowdlerized, and adapted innumerable times in its nearly three-century history. Even in its first publishing it was abridged and amended to avoid political scandal, and in the intervening years, whole sections of the complex four-part story have been lopped off for nursery-friendly illustrated editions. Pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès turned the first part into a silent short in 1902, Ray Harryhausen contributed stop-motion animation to a 1960 version starring Kerwin Mathews, and—more recently—Ten Danson appeared as Gulliver in a 1996 TV miniseries. I say all that to say this: 1.) Gulliver's Travels obviously has staying power in our ever-evolving pop-culture consciousness, and 2.) the story has never been viewed as sacred source material. Most adaptations seem to ditch Swift's sharp-barbed and ultimately misanthropic satire and focus instead on the novel's sense of fun, fantasy, and adventure. This new 2010 version, featuring perennial puppy-dog-man-child Jack Black, does just that—or tries to, anyway—but this is probably the broadest, loosest, and yes, dumbest version of Gulliver's Travels yet. This should give you a good idea what to expect: one of the film's first gags involves a pinky finger-sized Lilliputian—credited only as "Butt-Crack Man"—getting wedged in the crevice of Jack Black's ample derriere. He's never seen again.
Really, this is Gulliver's Travels in name only. The film—directed by Monsters vs. Aliens helmer Rob Letterman—includes a few characters and locations from the first two parts of Swift's book, and sticks with the whole "big man in a little world" premise, but otherwise it's an entirely new invention from screenwriters Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller. And by "new" I don't mean original. The script reduces Gulliver to a tired rom-com adventure for the under-12 set, complete with gross-out body-function humor and a barely-there love story. Jack Black is Lemuel Gulliver, an ambition-less, Guitar Hero-playing, 10-year-veteran mail clerk at a prestigious New York newspaper. The "mail room to the board room" career trajectory clearly doesn't apply to him, and his boss—a new hire who was promptly promoted after only a single day of work—quickly sums up Gulliver's static place in life: "You might as well just face it. You're never going to get any bigger than this." Ba-dum-ching! Of course, he's about to get much, much bigger. Through good luck and some flagrant plagiarism, Gulliver lands a plum assignment from the paper's travel editor, Darcy (Amanda Peet)—on whom he's had a long unspoken crush—who sends him off to write a "fluff piece" on the Bermuda Triangle. ("What newspaper would pay for an unproven writer's three-week Caribbean excursion," you ask? I don't know, but I want to work there.) After veering off course and getting sucked into an inverted whirlpool, Gulliver wakes up shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput and tied down by its tiny, 1/12-scale inhabitants. Here's where most semblance to Swift's story ends.
Lilliput is a courtly, vaguely Georgian-era realm ruled by King Benjamin (Billy Connolly), who declares Gulliver a "beast" and has him locked up in the stockade, much to the smug satisfaction of General Edward (Chris O'Dowd), a royal pain-in-the-ass who feels threatened by Gulliver's oversized presence. However, when the Blefuscians—the Lilliputians' similarly small rivals—attack and set fire to the castle, attempting to kidnap princess Mary (Emily Blunt), Gulliver saves the day by pissing all over the flames. (Oddly enough, this scene is lifted almost directly from the novel.) Henceforth, the t-shirt and cargo shorts-wearing giant is championed as a hero and given a huge hillside mansion to chill in while his boat is being fixed. Celebrated for the first time in his life, mailroom reject Gulliver—feeling appropriately large—begins to fib about his past to win the Lilliputians' further admiration. He claims he's "President, the Awesome" of America, and instead of a high definition TV, Gulliver's mansion is equipped with a literal home theater, where tiny actors reenact supposed scenes from his life, scenes that are actually taken from Star Wars and Titanic. Lest this sound too idyllic, some conflict does eventually present itself. In a Cyrano de Bergerac-type sequence, Gulliver teaches his pint-sized pal Horatio (Jason Segel) how to win over the princess, but this doesn't sit well with Edward, her jealous and possessive betrothed. Edward defects to the Blefuscians—with blueprints for how to build a giant robot—and Gulliver's identity is challenged when his crush, Darcy, washes up on shore.
None of this amounts to much, dramatically or comedically, and the film misses many an opportunity to revel in Swiftian spoofs on modern society. In lieu of satire, Gulliver's Travels employs broad, sting-less pop-culture references—KISS, the iPhone, every tent pole 20th Century Fox production ever—and lots of shots of Jack Black being, well, Jack Black. The portly comedian, who dresses like an overgrown sixth grader, does his usual shtick, which includes—but is not limited to—taking his shirt off, mooning the audience, mugging for the camera, twisting his eyebrows, and busting into song with his characteristic Tenacious D metal-head voice. If you're tired of Jack's default onscreen persona—that is, juvenile delinquent in a middle-aged man's body—Gulliver's Travels won't be the film to win you back to the Team Black fold. I can't say the other actors charm us, either, but it's not entirely their faults. The always-lovely Emily Blunt is given next to nothing to do, and Billy Connolly comes across like a Scottish hybrid of Colonel Sanders and Buffalo Bill, which sounds hilarious but sadly isn't. Judd Apatow go-to guy Jeremy Segel is appropriately lovelorn as Horatio, and Chris O'Dowd does his best John Cleese impersonation for the angry General Edward, but Jack Black literally and figuratively looms over the other performances, and not necessarily in a good way. Still, you have to remember who this film was made for, and I have to admit that Gulliver's Travels will likely tickle its target pre-tween audience of six to ten year olds. Appropriately, only little people will look up to Gulliver.
Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray, Video Quality
Say what you will about the film itself; you can't deny that Gulliver's Travels looks good on Blu-ray, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that makes the most out of the movie's colorful costumes and environments. Shot digitally—to more easily facilitate the blending of green-screened elements perhaps—the film has a bright, clean appearance that isn't necessarily film-like, but doesn't look overtly video-ish either. Although the visual effects aren't always, or even often seamless—if you look closely you'll sometimes notice that each layer of a composite shot has its own level of noisiness—there are no major distractions here, and I doubt the target audience will care. Clarity is generally strong, yielding an image that displays fine texture where you tend to look for it—the actors' faces, the details of the costumes, etc.—and there's never a trace of adverse edge enhancement. Color is satisfying too, with bright blue skies, vivid fire, and rich foliage greens, sitting on a foundation of dense blacks and tight contrast. Noise spikes a bit during darker scenes, and there are a few instances of slightly blown out highlights, but nothing noteworthy. I doubt we'll ever see Gulliver's Travels looking any better than this.
Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Jack Black fans who are also hardcore audiophiles—and I'm sure there are at least a few of you out there—may be slightly disappointed to learn that this Blu-ray release doesn't include the 7.1 surround sound presentation that Gulliver's Travels received in select theaters. While I don't understand why Fox wouldn't just throw the full mix on here for those with complete 7.1 home theater setups—it would mix down to 5.1 for everyone else—the included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is lively enough that you probably won't miss the extra channels. I'm always happy to see—well, hear—a kids movie that has strong sound design, and Gulliver's Travels definitely delivers on that end. The mix is both balanced and powerful, and the rear speakers are utilized often to bring the film's world to life. Newsroom chatter and New York City street sounds dominate the first act and are soon replaced by the roar of a jet engine, crashing waves, and a cyclone accompanied by a huge low-frequency rumble. Later, the naval battle and robot duel provide sonic showpiece moments, with intense cross-channel canon fire, zapping electricity, splintering wood, and Jack Black splashing in the ocean like an out of control toddler. Henry Jackman's score is forgettable, but at least sounds strong, and the film includes a handful of rock/funk numbers that make good use of the track's dynamic range as well. Dialogue throughout is clear and clean, and there are no instances of muffling, drop-outs, crackling, or popping.
Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This version of Gulliver's Travels is without a doubt the dumbest adaptation of Jonathan Swift's literary classic, but kids will probably get a momentary kick out of it before moving on to the next big thing. If the young Jack Black fan in your household has been asking for the disc, you can at least rest assured knowing that 20th Century Fox has provided the film with a solid Blu-ray release, brimming with bonus materials and featuring an impressive audio/video presentation. It could be worse, parents; your kid could've asked for Marmaduke or Furry Vengeance.
Gulliver's Travels: Other Editions
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Gulliver's Travels Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Gulliver’s Travels Blu-ray Announced - March 1, 2011
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced Gulliver's Travels for Blu-ray release on April 19, on a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. Jack Black brings his irreverent humor to this adventure-comedy based on the classic Jonathan Swift tale. No 3D Blu-ray has ...
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