Lemuel Gulliver is an easy guy to overlook. The short, tubby, Star Wars-loving nobody has been bouncing around in the mailroom at a big city newspaper for 10 years now. And nobody expects he'll be leaving anytime soon.
When a new hire is quickly promoted over him, however, Gulliver decides he needs to take stock. Maybe he should be a little more aggressive at improving his lot. And that goes double for his dating life.
Darcy, the paper's attractive travel editor, has been on Gulliver's heart-thumping radar for a while now. But he just can't work up the nerve to … um … well … actually … uh … talk to her. (Sigh.)
Something's gotta change.
So Gulliver plagiarizes a few Internet articles in an effort to wow his ladylove with his writing prowess. Instead of getting a date, though, he finds himself sent out on assignment to the Bermuda Triangle.
Well, at least it's a new job possibility!
Of course, as is the norm for Gulliver, things quickly go from bad to disastrous. An unexpected storm nearly drowns him and leaves him shipwrecked on the shore of a tiny island. A tiny island with even tinier inhabitants. Gulliver awakes to find himself surrounded by the diminutive countrymen of an 18th-century-style kingdom known as Lilliput.
And for the first time in his life, Gulliver is pretty hard to overlook.
Gulliver learns that he can change his life for the better if he only puts forth the effort. And he stands up to defend his Lilliputian friends, even though that lands him in harm's way. His little pal Horatio also risks live and limb to save Gulliver and the kingdom of Lilliput.
In Lilliput, Princess Mary and her mother, the queen, wear cleavage-boosting gowns and dresses. Gulliver prompts Horatio to woo Princess Mary by telling her how "sexy" she is. Horatio talks of her "child-bearing hips." And when the princess asks her betrothed, General Edward, to name one thing he loves about her, he sheepishly points to her breasts.
Briefly finding himself on another island where he is diminutive and his captors are giants, Gulliver gets dressed up in a dress and forced to kiss a male doll. He goes shirtless and rolls out of bed in the morning wearing boxer shorts. We see his upper body while he's showering. He kisses Darcy.
The bam-crash-boom action on hand is generally pratfall-focused. For instance, a shirtless Gulliver wades out into the ocean to face off with a miniature enemy armada. The ships fire their cannons and the cannonballs poke into Gulliver's stomach … only to bounce off his blubber and riddle the offenders. After the battle, the big G's chest and stomach are covered in tiny welts.
In another fight, Gulliver faces off with the traitorous General Edward, who has built a giant robot that's even larger than our hero. Gulliver is pummeled, kicked in the crotch and tossed into buildings. He's subdued when the robot grabs his undershorts and gives him a super-wedgie—in full suspension mode.
While among the giants he's manhandled by a "little" girl, as if he were a doll. She jams a bottle in his mouth, slams him around on the bed and aims a sharp, giant safety pin at his crotch while diapering him. While locked up in his dollhouse prison, Gulliver finds the skeletal remains of another man his size.
During much more realistic moments, Gulliver is caught up in a huge storm at sea and slammed repeatedly to the deck by enormous waves. The Lilliputian king and an aid are caught in a roaring fire. Gulliver's foot is impaled by a subsize spear. General Edward grabs Princess Mary—and she punches him in the face.
Crude or Profane Language
Six uses of "a‑‑" and one of "h‑‑‑." God's name is combined with "dang it." A rock lyric screams, "Good god, y'all!" The king cries out, "Good lord!" A boat bears the name "Ship Happens."
Drug and Alcohol Content
The royal family of Lilliput appear to have glasses of wine at dinner. Gulliver invites a co-worker to go out for "brews." He gulps down a Red Bull.
Other Negative Elements
When the Lilliputians try to restrain Gulliver, they end up accidentally pulling down his pants and exposing the crack of his backside. Falling backwards he lands on a small screaming soldier—who disappears into the chasm.
Later, Gulliver rides to the rescue by urinating on a raging palace fire. The camera makes much of the yellow liquid drenching the tiny bystanders. The kingdom then builds a urinating statue commemorating the event. Kicks to the groin and wicked wedgies are also part of the movie's crude visual shorthand for "THIS IS FUNNY! LAUGH!"
Gulliver repeatedly lies to improve people's opinion of him. In Lilliput he tells elaborate stories and stages plays about his great accomplishments—tales often derived from famous movies such as Star Wars and Titanic.
When I first saw a poster for Gulliver's Travels (featuring a gigantic Jack Black pinned down on a Lilliputian beach), I thought, "This could be cute."
It was the high point of my opinion on this film.
Instead of merely modernizing the wit, satire or political spoofing of Jonathan Swift's 18th-century tale, or even just shooting for an adventure-filled kids' fable, this Gulliver just schlepps around inanely for 90 minutes.
Its scriptwriters attempt to get by solely on Jack Black's now-typecast charm. And they give him, essentially, one joke to work with: There's this guy, see, who lies to everybody by borrowing rock song lyrics and action movie plots to bring attention to himself. Ba-dump-chuck. Oh, and everybody around him is 1/100th his size. Fizzzzzzzle.
Repeat 50 times and roll credits.
Yep, that's about it. Toilet humor and infantile gags (one of which invokes homosexuality) fill in the gaps, and can be seen coming from a mile away—much like a lumbering giant struggling to keep his pants from falling down around his knees.
Did I mention already that our "hero" eventually learns a Lilliputian-size lesson about making fewer self-serving choices in the future?
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jack Black as Lemuel Gulliver; Jason Segel as Horatio; Emily Blunt as Princess Mary; Amanda Peet as Darcy Silverman
20th Century Fox
December 25, 2010
April 19, 2011