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Rob Letterman
Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Chris O'Dowd, T.J. Miller
Writing Credits:
Joe Stillman, Nicholas Stoller, Jonathan Swift (book)

Something big is going down.

Jack Black is larger than life in this epic comedy-adventure based on the classic tale. When a shipwreck lands a lowly mailroom clerk named Gulliver (Black) on the fantastical island of Lilliput, he transforms into a giant — in size and ego. Gulliver’s tall tales and heroic deeds win the hearts of the tiny Lilliputians, but when he loses it all and puts his newfound friends in peril, Gulliver must find a way to undo the damage. Through it all, Gulliver may just learn that it’s how big you are on the inside that counts.

Box Office:
$112 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.307 million on 2546 screens.
Domestic Gross
$42.776 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 4/19/2011

• “I Don’t Know… With Lemuel Gulliver” Featurette
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• “Little and Large”Featurette
• “Jack Black Thinks Big” Featurette
• “Down Time” Featurette
• “Gulliver’s Foosball Challenge” Game
• “War Song Dance” Featurette
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Jack Black”
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Jason Segel”
• “Life After Film School: Rob Letterman”
• “World Premiere” Featurette
• Trailer
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Gulliver's Travels [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 4, 2011)

If you’re going to film the work of one of literature’s greatest satirical writers, you’d want to use a great satirical actor, right? Or maybe not. For the 2010 version of Jonathan Swift’s classic Gulliver’s Travels, we find Jack Black in the title role, and I’m not sure he deserves merit as a “pretty good” anything, much less a great something or other.

Not that one should expect a movie that brings a faithful adaptation of Swift’s novel to the screen, as “loosely based” seems to be the order of the day. Lemuel Gulliver works in the mailroom at a New York newspaper. When a new hire (TJ Miller) gets promoted above Gulliver rapidly and essentially calls Lemuel a dead-end loser, our hero tries to rise to the challenge. He goes to chat with his crush, travel writer Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet) and ends up stuck with an application as a journalist.

Stuck for subject matter, Gulliver simply plagiarizes other sources and impresses Darcy. This lands him an assignment to go to Bermuda and investigate its notorious “Triangle”. When he gets there, he rents a boat and sets to see on his own.

Caught in a storm, Gulliver becomes lost in the sea. He winds up in the land of Lilliput, a place populated by tiny people. This makes Gulliver a giant and viewed as a threat. Gulliver finds a way to change this perception and we follow his adventures among the Lilliputians and others.

When I check out movies based on novels, I try to judge them on their own merits. I understand why some expect films to hew closely to their written inspirations; why bother to adapt something if you don’t want it to echo the source? Nonetheless, I don’t worry too much about the subject because I feel that if a flick entertains on its own, that’s good enough for me.

So you won’t find any moaning about how much this film trashes Swift’s text; that couldn’t be truer, but I won’t harp on the issue. However, I will come down hard on Travels for its general crumminess. Though I don’t care if it’s faithful, I do care that it’s just awful.

Can I find anything positive to say about Travels? No, though I appreciate its brevity; it doesn’t even reach the 85-minute mark, so at least I don’t have to suffer through hours of this nonsense.

While stuck with it, though, Travels feels much longer than it is, primarily due to its utter lack of inspiration. Essentially it takes a satirical classic and reduces it cheap sight gags and obvious product placement. In the supplements, director Rob Letterman states that the original novel comes with much scatological material, and maybe he’s correct; I’ve not read it since high school, so my memory fades.

I’d have to believe that Swift’s jokes work better than the movie’s, though. This is a film that uses Black’s flabby body as a go-to gag – like virtually every other movie Jack’s made – and also tries to amuse us with shots of butt cracks and urination. “Tries to” becomes the operative phrase, as none of these attempts at humor threaten to succeed.

Nor do the film’s inevitable and predictable pop culture references succeed. Like everything else, these feel tacked on and stale. I get the impression the movie includes them because it feels it must; it wants to shoot for the “fish out of water” element, so we’re supposed to be amused by the way Gulliver introduces Star Wars and Kiss to the Lilliputians.

I guess. It’s hard to figure out what exactly the filmmakers were thinking as they created this lowest common denominator product; it’s tough to imagine that any of them actually believed their stabs at comedy would amuse anyone.

It becomes equally difficult to figure out why any of the actors signed up for this dreck other than to make some money. Black provides his standard shtick here, though even he seems to be bored with his MO at this point. Black has played this same part forever, and he’s not getting any better at it; he appears to be afraid to try anything different, so we’re stuck with aggressively unfunny performances like the one he issues here.

No one else does anything to elevate the material, though I’m not sure what the actors could do to save the project. With all those crummy lines to utter, they’re stuck; even the greatest talents in the world couldn’t do much to redeem this thing.

I suspect younger viewers will get more from Travels than I did, and I imagine that the filmmakers would defend the film with claims that it’s meant for kids, not bitter old men like me. They might be correct, but I don’t believe “it’s for the kids” should be a rallying cry to defend terrible filmmaking – and it doesn’t get a whole lot less amusing than this stinker.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Gulliver’s Travels appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a good but unexceptional presentation.

My only minor complaints connected to sharpness, as occasional shots appeared a bit on the mushy side. These seemed to exist as an artifact of visual effects, though, as the various soft shots occurred during composites. Those were exceptions to the rule, though, so most of the movie offered good clarity and definition. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes or print flaws.

Colors looked fine. The movie went with a pretty natural palette that offered a mix of vivid tones. These came across with nice clarity and liveliness. Blacks were dark and tight, and low-light shots demonstrated positive visibility. Only the mild softness created distractions, as the rest of the presentation was solid.

I felt more impressed by the lively DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Travels, as it offered a lot of pizzazz. The soundfield created a terrific sense of place and threw out fine action when appropriate. The movie’s various action sequences boasted vivid material that showed up around the spectrum in a dynamic manner.

Other aspects of the track satisfied as well. Music always offered good stereo imaging, and quieter scenes were convincing, too. These showed a clear sense of place and meshed together in a pleasing way.

Audio quality always seemed strong. Effects were dynamic and clear, with deep bass and good punch. Music showed similar strengths, as the score was lively and full. Speech came across as natural and concise. I liked this track and thought it added a lot to the movie.

Travels comes with a roster of many small extras. I Don’t Know… With Lemuel Gulliver runs five minutes, 15 seconds as it offers a program similar to In Search Of as Black’s Gulliver character discusses the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s essentially an ad for the movie, but it’s a clever way to do so.

A Gag Reel lasts one minute, 28 second. It’s unusual in that it focuses entirely on one scene that features an uncooperative vehicle and the actors’ attempts to deal with it. That makes it ore fun than most.

Eight Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 15 minutes, 12 seconds. These include “Old Hank” (1:25), “Gulliver Meets Royals – Extended Version” (1:20), “Defense System” (0:47), “Royal Banquet – Extended Version” (1:51), “Basketball” (2:26), “King and Queen Practice Basketball and King Makes Breakfast” (3:27), “Horatio and Princess on a Date” (2:54) and “Gulliver and Edward Duel in Gulliver’s House” (1:12). “Old Hank” offers foreshadowing for Gulliver’s voyage, and a few others like “Banquet” throw out additional exposition. Most simply deliver more attempts at comedy, though, and they’re just as lousy as the material in the final film.

A bunch of featurettes follow. These cover Little and Large (8:14), Jack Black Thinks Big (5:59), Down Time (4:24), and War Song Dance (5:45). Across these, we hear from director Rob Letterman, production designer Gavin Bocquet, VFX producer Cari Thomas, VFX supervisor Jim Rygiel, producers Bert Cooley, John Davis and Gregory Goodman, song producer Jim Kimbrough, choreographer Fran Jaynes, and actors Jack Black, Billy Connolly, Jason Segel, James Corden, Olly Alexander, Emily Blunt, Chris O’Dowd, and Catherine Tate. The featurettes cover techniques used to mix actors portrayed at different sizes, set design and costumes, cast and performances, and the recording/shooting of a musical number.

The various featurettes remain consistently fluffy, but that doesn’t make them a waste of time. We get a lot of footage from the set and enough useful info to fill out the pieces. You shouldn’t expect anything fascinating, but the clips deliver decent glimpses of the production.

Gulliver’s Foosball Challenge gives us a simple game. It allows you to play foosball if you press your remote’s buttons when told to do so. It’s awkward and not any fun.

The next three pieces all come from Fox Movie Channel programs. We find Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Jack Black (6:31), Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Jason Segel (4:52) and Life After Film School: Rob Letterman (21:53). During their segments, Black and Segel mostly just offer general notes about story and characters; they throw in some minor production notes, but not much info emerges.

“Life” also acts to promote the movie, so expect some puffiness. Nonetheless, the program gives us good thoughts about Letterman’s career and aspects of the movie business. It’s not exactly hard-hitting, but it’s informative and interesting.

Finally, we look at the World Premiere. This segment lasts six minutes, three seconds and takes us to Hollywood for the movie’s debut. Along the way, host Tava Smiley briefly chats with Letterman, Black, Segel, and Blunt. This is a superficial puff-piece.

The disc opens with ads for Rio, Marley & Me: The Puppy Years and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This area also throws in an animated short that acts as a preview for 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift. We also find the trailer for Travels.

Disc Two gives us a DVD Copy of the film, while Disc Three throws in a Digital Copy of Travels. Note that the DVD is the same one available separately, but because the standard DVD release is a two-disc set, it lacks supplements other than the gag reel; the other components – which appear to be the same as the ones on the Blu-ray – reside on the second platter.

Not only does Gulliver’s Travels totally trash its literary predecessor, but also it simply fails to become an enjoyable movie. Packed with crummy jokes and cheap gags, nothing here succeeds; even with a brief running time, it’s tedious and unlikable. The Blu-ray comes with pretty good picture, terrific audio and some decent supplements. If you’re looking for fun family fare, go somewhere else; Travels deserves to be left on the shelf.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main