by Jeff Beck, Guest Film Critic

Jonathan Swift’s infamous story gets a modern day treatment in this new telling of the tale. However, if you’re expecting anything like the original book, you may be more than a little disappointed as this new version gives the story a complete makeover not only in the time period in which it’s set, but also in plot and characters.

Set in modern day, the story begins in Manhattan where Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) works in the mail room of a publication. He has a serious crush on one of the editors, Darcy (Amanda Peet), but lacks the courage to tell her how he feels, nor does he have much ambition to move up from his current position. In one of his attempts to ask her out, he finds himself stuck in the position of applying for a writer’s position that involves travel, and after plagiarizing a sample, Darcy sends him to the Bermuda Triangle for his first official assignment.

While at sea, he falls asleep and encounters a storm that tosses him ashore on the island of Lilliput, which is inhabited by very tiny people. At first, he is considered a beast, but after rescuing the local princess, Mary (Emily Blunt), he is proclaimed a hero. Meanwhile, there is a love triangle going on that involves the princess, a general, Edward (Chris O’Dowd), and a commoner, Horatio (Jason Segel). On top of that, Lilliput is at war with another nation of tiny people right across a small stretch of ocean and is always under constant threat of attack, but now that they have Gulliver, things are a bit different.

This is a film that has been getting rather negative reviews pretty much across the board, and while it wasn’t quite as bad as it was being made out to be, it still doesn’t end up earning a recommendation. The story itself is pretty solid for the most part. It’s incredibly predictable, but it’s meant to be a children’s movie, so I’ll try not to hold that against it.

One of the main notions of the film is that Gulliver is pretty much a nobody back home, but in Lilliput, where he towers above everyone and even vanquishes an entire enemy armada, he’s a big shot. He builds himself up as being a really great person back where he comes from, but, of course, this is all found out eventually, which leads to the emotional section of the film. However, this is also where it begins to get tedious.

The predictability ends up adding to this, especially when the story really begins to get silly. The first half of the film is interesting enough, setting up the situation and all, but it eventually becomes tiresome to watch when we realize not much else is going to happen. The second half begins the silliness as the Lilliputians devote themselves to building things for Gulliver, who is constantly trying to change the way these people live.

The silliness comes to a head when the climactic fight between Gulliver and a giant enemy robot begins. At this point, the audience is just kind of shaking their heads, wondering what ever happened to Swift’s classic story. This version of the tale seems to have been made for the purpose of showcasing the special effects, some of which turned out well, others not so much.

The over the top performances of the well-spoken Lilliputians, and even that of Jack Black, go a long way towards helping make the movie better, but sadly, they just couldn’t save the material from itself. It’s interesting to note that the film was written by writers of rather different styles, i.e. one’s pretty good, the other not so much. Joe Stillman wrote the underappreciated “Planet 51” and co-wrote the first two “Shrek” films, while Nicholas Stoller wrote “Get Him to the Greek” and co-wrote “Yes Man.” It’s a shame that neither of them could figure out how to wrap up the Lilliputian plot, which explains why they ended up throwing in a song and dance rendition of “War - What is it Good For?” All that ends up doing is making the audience ask what this movie was good for. 2.5/4 stars.