First of all, I’ve never been one to automatically criticizefilmmakers for remaking classic films or adapting classic novels, and I’mdefinitely not fool enough to get all high and mighty about a family filmleaving out a few details of one of the densest novels in English literature.Gulliver’s adventures among the Lilliputians is only one chapter of the novel,and by far the most popular for film and tv adaptation. Personally I’m stillwaiting for someone to do something with Gulliver’s travels among theintelligent talking horses known as Houyhnhnms. The way that chapter satirizesa society it preceded by 300 years is staggering.
But that’s a story for another day. For now, suffice it tosay that this is about as much a film adaptation of Swift’s novel as a mousepad with a picture of Shakespeareon it is an adaptation of Hamlet. It’s an inoffensive romp generally strungalong a flimsy structure of the original story, but your opinion of it willdepend entirely on your feelings for the cast. Make no mistake, ladies andgentlemen, this is a Jack Black comedy aimed at kids and virtually nothingelse.
Personally I like Jack Black, but I was also an Englishmajor and I loved the original novel, so I have mixed feelings about a moviethat stands on the shoulders of a classic story and then spouts off 85 minutesof stupidity, despite starring an actor I like.
Gulliver (Black) is a lowly mailroom clerk for a travelpublication who spends most of his time nursing a huge crush on Darcy (AmandaPeet), the travel editor. He plagiarizes a few writing samples and gets a jobas a travel writer, and his first assignment, as must be the case with allbeginning writers, is to debunk the Bermuda Triangle myth.
So yeah, not really starting off well, right? But let’s justkeep the kids in mind, shall we? I was a kid once, and there was a time when Iwas totally fascinated with the Bermuda Triangle. Even now the disappearance ofFlight 19 pushes my supernatural buttons. So it should come as little surprisethat the movie starts off playing to that kind of young fascination.
As it turns out, the Bermuda Triangle is not only very real,but is a doorway into the magical kingdom of the Lilluputians. SuddenlyGulliver is no longer a nearly invisible schmuck devoid of social standing butis instead a towering giant able to take command of all her surveys. You canimagine his delight!
There is some trouble with an invading force known as theBefluscia, which threatens the peaceful world of the Lilliputians (andGulliver’s reign), but expounding on the minute details of a movie that hasalready stripped any and all meaningful content from its original story is muchlike describing in intricate detail the ingredients of a microwave burrito.
Come on, it’s a microwave burrito, you already know prettymuch how you’re gonna feel about it.
I didn’t completely hate the movie though. I can definitelysee the entertainment value for younger audience members, who will surely havea good time, and the special effects are not entirely unimpressive. They’reoften little more than the old superimposing tricks used to create giants inthe movie that go back for decades, but the 3D technology is put to good use,and at one point Gulliver takes an amusing trip to Brobdingnag, the land of thegiants where he’s the tiny one.
But even though it’s not bad family entertainment, Black’sscreen presence just doesn’t mingle with the story. He stomps through the movieand across the screen so much that the content of the movie becomes almostmeaningless, and I have to say that each new movie that comes along anddeliberately dumbs down a literary classic does a huge disservice to futuregenerations. I’ll admit that I only read the book because I had to, but if youcompare entertainment like this to the entertainment the original novelprovided for Swift’s 18th century audience, it’s hard not to noticehow far we’ve fallen.
The Bean Meter