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Blu-ray Review: Gulliver’s Travels (2010)

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Usually, I roll my eyes when I see Jack Black’s name attached to a moving picture project of any sort. I also tend to sway my ocular organs upwards whenever I see that the overpaid, pretentious fools in Hollywood with “Thalberg Syndrome” (a term that was coined, ironically enough, by George Lucas) have decided to look past the countless number of scripts turned in day after day by talented, hopeful and aspiring writers who offer some truly original ideas; favoring instead the chance to make something that had already been made several times over. Their method behind this madness, of course, is that once something has been proven successful, it’ll keep making money. Another oft-imprudent Tinseltown belief is that they can enhance that which had previously been hailed as “definitive” by incorporating new-and-improved special effects into a tired old story and subsequently abandoning said story altogether.

When I saw the advertisements for yet another version of Gulliver’s Travels, I thought to myself: “Hmm. Maybe they could actually pull this one off — even if it does star Jack Black.”

Yes, I was actually willing to give this one a chance, people.

Now, were I a religious individual, my initial reaction to the 2010 adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s immortal tale, Gulliver’s Travels, would have been a solemn and rather feeble “Why, God? Why!?” However, seeing as how I am not of the pious nature, my first retort to seeing the crack of Jack Black’s ass as it engulfed a poor, wretched Lilliputian soldier somewhere near the beginning of the film was a stern and very forceful “Fuck you, Hollywood!”

And, in case the horrific image of such an occurrence hasn’t succeeded in developing within your mind, here’s a screen-cap to give you nightmares for years to come.

You’re welcome.

Now then, let’s proceed with pointing out several other things about Gulliver’s Travels that should make you not want to see it (or remind you why you wish you hadn’t, in the event you already did). The story opens with a peek into the personal life of our hero, Lemuel Gulliver (as portrayed by Monsieur Noir) — a childish, overweight dweeb who has worked as the mailroom clerk of a New York newspaper for the better part of ten years who seemingly exists to do little more than play with his vintage Star Wars action figures (hey, at least he’s not foolin’ around with those damn PotF toys!); waste time with video games; and house a secret, 95%-creepy crush on the paper’s travel editor, Darcy (Amanda Peet, who no doubt longs for the days wherein she played second fiddle to Jason Biggs after this one).

Gulliver also happens to be a big fat liar — and his ability to fib takes over one fateful afternoon when his inability to ask Darcy out retreats like a scrawny old incontinent cat. Plagiarizing bits and pieces from several other sources (apparently, he’s a blogger, too), Lemuel turns in a sample of his “writing” and lands a sea-faring job in the Bermuda Triangle.

Yep, you read that right, kids: the writers of Gulliver’s Travels were so lazy that they played the Bermuda Triangle card.

So, anyway, after a devastating brush with the CGI machine, our hero (yup, you read that one correctly, too: he’s our protagonist!) winds up washing ashore of Lilliput — where everyone is about 1/12th the size of Lemuel’s world. Shortly after inserting the aforementioned mini-man up his backside, our giant is imprisoned and subsequently released when he extinguishes a nearly-cataclysmic by dropping his drawers and peeing on the giant flame: a gag reminiscent of Strange Brew — only this time Billy Connolly gets waterlogged in urine during his most humiliating performance ever as Lilliputian King Benjamin (yes, this is comedy, folks). Later, after winning the hearts of the citizens of Lilliput, Gulliver transforms the monarchy into a merchandising inferno akin to Times Square — littered with many different puns and plays on popular current media favorites like that goddamned Avatar movie (nah, there’s no way this movie will become dated in a couple of years).

What, you want more? Well, our compulsive liar also tries to help poor Jason Segel woo Princess Emily Blunt, and butts heads with an arrogant general (Chris O’Dowd) — who later joins the forces of Lilliput’s sworn-enemies, the Blefuscians, and builds a giant robot to battle the invading media-mongering menace that turned his easy-going former country into a fucking shithole. Or at least that’s the way I saw it.

In the past, Jonathan Swift’s original story has been modified and amended more times than even Edward Kasner could count. With this latest adaptation, Swift’s story is not altogether unrecognizable, but it’s unnoticeable enough at times that the filmmakers could have changed the title altogether and not worried about a loss in ticket sales…especially since nobody really wanted to watch the movie anyway. This could be attributable to a) it’s just another Jack Black film, or b) the fools in Hollywood with “Thalberg Syndrome” can’t seem to get it in their heads to try something different for a change. My biggest concern here is how the movie managed to land such decent cast members like Blunt, Segel, Connolly and O’Dowd as Lilliputians.

The best explanation I can come up with is that, since the larger-than-life Jack Black bits were filmed separately against a green screen, the film’s producers lied to the supporting actors and told them they were making a serious version of the movie with a more-respected celebrity like Ben Wade, Ben Stiller or even a computer-generated Joe De Rita.

Well, no matter how abysmal this movie may be (I understand that some people actually liked it — and their apparently lack of proper medication scares me), there’s no denying that Fox Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray presentation is a beauty. The 50GB disc contains a MPEG-4/AVC 1080p transfer of the flick, preserved forever (NO!) in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. From its bright blue skies above Lilliput to the dark cavernous dungeons that lie beneath it, the HD transfer of this shot-digitally turkey excels better than some other recent releases of far-superior movies have. Detail and contrast are also very strong and impressive — as is the main DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which has been whittled-down a bit from the original theatrical 7.1 mix, but nevertheless still delivers. Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks in French, Spanish and Portuguese are also available, and the disc comes with English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, and Mandarin subtitles.

Bonus materials for Gulliver’s Travels are numerous, but just as appalling as the main feature itself. Included are several deleted scenes, featurettes, clips from television specials and lots and lots of stuff revolving around Jack Black. Sigh. The best thing about this release is the inclusion of the delightful theatrical short Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up (another chapter in Fox’s animated Ice Age franchise), which plays before the main menu loads. The Blu-ray/DVD Combo also houses a third disc with a Digital Copy of the movie — should you run out of clay pigeons.

In short: Gulliver’s Travels is to be avoided at all costs. If someone tries to make you watch this, just pretend to be dead — a trip to the mortuary should prove far more interesting.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
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