Gulliver's Travels (PG)

Starring: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet
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The Independent Culture

While nobody would seriously expect Hollywood to honour Jonathan Swift's satirical fantasy, we might at least have hoped for a few decent gags.

The director, Rob Letterman (Shark Tale), has cooked up most of this adaptation in the effects lab, peopled it with faces we would recognise (and the budget could afford), then figured that hilarity might ensue. Well, you may laugh, but you'd also have to be about seven years old. Jack Black plays Gulliver, disaffected drone in the mailroom of a New York newspaper who finagles a travel assignment from the editor (Amanda Peet) he's secretly in love with. Turns out he's bound for the Bermuda Triangle, where a vortex beaches him on the shores of Lilliput, a toytown where everyone is minuscule and most are British comics of some sort (Billy Connolly is king, Catherine Tate is queen, James Corden... possibly a courtier?).

After initial mistrust, Gulliver wins them over with stories of his heroism, all plagiarised from the Hollywood pantheon (Titanic, Star Wars, etc). But the plagiarism joke is on the movie, for, after a spell in Brobdingnag, Gulliver's battle with his arch-rival rips off the clanking duellists of Iron Man – a film of insultingly recent vintage that suggests how little the film-makers care about looking second-hand. Gullible's Travels!

As for Jack Black, he's stuck in a career rut. Terrific as the strutting, overgrown-adolescent guitar-hero of School of Rock, seven years later he's Gulliver, and – guess what – he plays out the movie as a strutting, overgrown adolescent guitar-hero. He needs a new party trick.