GULLIVER'S TRAVELS Review

Ya know, going into this Jack Black family comedy I expected nothing more than an excuse for Black to flail himself around and make funny faces in an attempt to get the kiddies to laugh. I thought, surely the trailer wasn't a good sign and I am probably going to regret buying a ticket even after choosing to save a few bucks by seeing it in regular ole 2-D. So, to say the least, I expected very little. I wasn't completely correct in those assumptions.

"Gulliver's Travels" has its moments. Most of them due to the fun cast that has been assembled. Luckily, the film plays to Black's strengths. It doesn't ever try to make him something he is not and it is actually really good to see Black doing what he does best after so many roles of trying to prove his naysayers wrong. As nice as it was to see him try and with great success in "Tropic Thunder" and smaller films like "Be Kind Rewind" it was refreshing to re-live those reasons we fell in love with Jack Black in the first place. In supporting roles, Jason Segel plays Horatio a Lilliput who yearns to be with Princess Mary, played by the always pleasant Emily Blunt. Amanda Peet is present for a few scenes but is nothing more than a little bland and gives us no real reason to root fro Gulliver to leave this land of little people where he has become so at home.
One of my favorite parts of this experience was simply noticing how much fun the actors seemed to be having while trying to make a children's movie. Who is to say artsy, Oscar bait films are more enjoyable than a fun family-oriented film such as this. I'm not saying it is as meaningful, and certainly we are in a drought of quality live-action films geared towards the young demographic, but I cannot honestly say that I wasn't entertained and enjoying myself the entire hour and twenty-five minute run time. Heck, I even laughed out loud a few times. Watching Jason Segel and Emily Blunt go back and forth with their obvious put-upon old English accents and having Black feed Segel Prince lyrics as he tries to court her is nothing more than hilarious. Simple, but still funny.

And though much might be said for some of the poor special effects I, at the same time, find it hard to complain about the look of the film. For the most part, I found it rather pretty and thought the set design to be rather inspiring. Though the movie does slip pretty heavily into product placement and constant pop culture references it is fun to watch the very animated Black adjust to the time period of the tiny Lilliput. In a string of good gags, Black comes up with ways to incorporate his new found friends and servants into his world. Watching such a modern guy react and work with this strange world around him might not be what Jonathon Swift had in mind when he originally wrote the book, but the movie serves as a good segway for kids to enjoy mindlessly entertainment while possibly creating curiosity around its source material.

"Gulliver's Travels" is quick and colorful. It is lively while possessing little real heartbeat behind the surface images it conjures up. It would be a lie to say I didn't enjoy the film, it obviously exceeded my very low expectations but I know the difference in being surprised and being proved wrong. I was happy this wasn't as bad as I though it was going to be. I liked the sets, I enjoyed the company of the actors and I laughed at most of the jokes, but I couldn't ever suppress the feeling the film could have been much much better. It could have been more inventive at parts, it could have not relied on those pop culture jokes so much and instead been more true to Swift's book while making it a comedy. Learning through laughter was always best when I was a kid and while this provided a few moments of laughter, there was nothing to think about. In that regard, the kids of the world deserve a little more.