The success of Ben Stiller’s Museum movies has brought its share of like-minded attempts to fuse family comedy fare with fantastical elements. Adam Sandler didn’t have any luck when he attempted to do the same with 2008’s Bedtime Stories. I don’t imagine Jack Black is going to do much better with this weak attempt.
Black’s Gulliver is a weak-willed schlep from the mail room of an unnamed magazine who is reminded repeatedly that he’s never going to amount to much due to his lack of drive and confidence. He can’t even bring himself to ask out the hottie travel editor that he’s had a crush on for years (played by Amanda Peet in a thankless, but luckily for her, almost non-existent role). A failed attempt to express his feelings leads to a writing assignment chasing down the Bermuda Triangle which leads to a tsunami of some sort which leads to Gulliver washing up on the shores of Lilliput.
What follows are a by-committee series of escapades -- some gross (a Lilliputian gets lost in a butt crack, Gulliver puts out a fire with his pee), some romantic (we get not one, but two equally uninteresting love stories), but mostly just unfunny bits of … stuff. And hey, I like Jack Black at a time when most people have grown tiresome of his shucking and jiving routine. But he seems lost and floundering here. So does Jason Segal who, as Gulliver’s best buddy amongst the Lilliputians, is asked to do nothing more than the play the straightest of straight men to Black and pine over Emily Blunt’s Princess Mary. Poor Ms. Blunt has got even less to do. As a result, I spent most of her time on screen contemplating her eerie resemblance to Katy Perry. The only who seems to be having any fun whatsoever is Chris O’Dowd (from beloved BBC comedy The IT Crowd). He spends the movie chewing up the furniture as bad guy General Edward and gets just about the only genuine laugh in the film, chewing out his brethren for buying into Gulliver’s increasing incredulous stories of glory on the Island of Manhattan.
Naturally, the film is being released in 3D for no apparent reason than to get poor susceptible parents to shell out an extra $6 bucks a ticket in an attempt to entertain their kids during their week home from school. This is the kind of movie people don’t expect critics to like, but I swear I went in with an open mind as did my five-year-old. But when he turned to me an hour in and said he was ready to leave it was only my journalistic integrity that kept us sitting there. But dear Milo, I felt your pain.