Like that other recent adaptation of a classic, proportion-obsessed fantasy novel, Alice in Wonderland, this high-energy, lowbrow comedy take on Gulliver’s Travels strips the source material down to its recognizable parts and then builds something completely new out of them. Unfortunately, the result is entirely Lilliputian in ambition, even for a children’s movie.
In this iteration, Jack Black’s Gulliver is a stunted mail-room jockey at a newspaper. He spends most of his time playing Guitar Hero and quietly pining for an attractive travel editor (Amanda Peet) who is above his station in more ways than one. One sloppy and not at all credible misunderstanding later, and Gulliver is suddenly traveling alone on assignment to the Bermuda Triangle, where a spurting cyclone sends him to Liliput, a magically miniaturized realm populated by tiny people. There, he becomes a benevolently bodacious god, using the diminutive denizens for his own amusement — the film’s best bit comes when he has them re-enact films like Star Wars and Titanic on a stage mocked up to look like a television — while simultaneously teaching them not to be so uptight, dude.
Director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) sands the edges off of Jonathan Swift’s tale and replaces them with robots, wedgie jokes, and a neatly wrapped all-you-need-is-confidence personal message, which also plays out through Jason Segel’s attempts as a lower-caste Lilliputian to woo his kingdom’s princess (Emily Blunt). By now, Black is used to playing characters who are adolescents stuck in an adult’s body, so the sight of him tromping around a tiny kingdom like it’s a play set is strangely fitting. I just don?t know if the real kids in the audience will be having as much fun. C-