Gulliver’s Travels (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Rob Letterman
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 108p AVC codec
Running Time: 85 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: April 19, 2011
Review Date: April 19, 2011
Rob Letterman’s Gulliver’s Travels is a special effects-laden action comedy that’s heavy on the effects, light on the action, and completely lacking in the comedy. A leaden balloon of misfired humor on a grand scale, the family comedy released for holiday audiences never found many takers (it was a much bigger hit internationally than here), and while it may find some friendlier acceptance in the home video market, the low level of humor, the leaden romance, and the predictable action, innocuous as it all is, simply refuses to ever catch fire. Some excellent actors spin their wheels to little or no purpose, and it’s obvious that enormous effort went into this with a pitifully miniscule return on their investment.
Mail room attendant Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) has such a crush on feature travel editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet) that he bluffs his way into being given an assignment to impress her. She assigns him an investigation of the Bermuda Triangle, and in his research, his power boat gets swept up in a squall and deposited in the land of Lilliput with its four inch high citizenry whose efforts to contain Lem are unsuccessful. Chosen by King Theodore (Billy Connolly) to serve as the kingdom’s defense against their enemies the Blefuscians, Lem’s appointment angers replaced General Edward (Chris O'Dowd) who goes to any and all lengths to bring down the giant nerd. Lem also makes friends with humble peasant Horatio (Jason Segel) who has a crush on Princess Mary (Emily Blunt) who had been engaged to Edward. With his confidence restored by the Lilliputians’ respect for him, Lem advises Horatio on how to win the girl causing an even greater rift with Edward who will now stop at nothing to bring down Lem, conquer Lilliput for himself, and regain the princess’ affections.
Making Gulliver a nerdy man-child is only one of the affronts writers Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller have perpetrated upon Jonathan Swift’s classic tale, a four-part satire which is only barely dipped into here for its names and locations. It’s supposed to be funny that this stranger convinces all of the Lilliputians that he’s invented everything from coffeemakers to lounge chairs and that Star Wars and Titanic are stories about him? Director Rob Letterman is at the mercy of the elaborate and sometimes overwhelming special effects that allow star Jack Black to become a giant, but the seams are showing throughout, and there’s a definite lack of magic and effortlessness in the entire enterprise. A quick sojourn to Brobdingnag seems more like feeble padding (allowing a giant child to stuff Black into a dress for no laughs whatsoever), and the two romantic pairings with Black-Peet and Segel-Blunt both have a decided lack of chemistry. We get jokes about the giant’s urine, and we see his enormous butt crack when his underwear gets pulled down, all of which is supposed to be hilarious but actually has the opposite effect. In a final act of desperation, Black is allowed moments here that recall two of his more successful previous films Nacho Libre and School of Rock, the latter giving over to a climactic musical number “War” in celebration of their happy ending.
Jack Black has played these immature schlubs so many times that seeing another one here just seems tired and lacking any spark at all. Jason Segel has a more innocent comic air about him, but his British accent slips in and out particularly during the film’s latter half, and, as stated previously, he has no romantic chemistry with Emily Blunt. Shorn of her brittle wit displayed so brilliantly in The Devil Wears Prada, Blunt makes little impact. Likewise Billy Connolly who can be very funny when doing slow burns but here he has no comic business and must rely on making faces at the camera. The film’s best performance is turned in by its resident villain Chris O'Dowd who makes his haughty airs and wounded pride into something worth watching.
The film’s theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio has been delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is spot-on, enough that the film’s special effects betray their computer origins on several occasions. Color saturation is excellent with no bleeding evident even with the excess of red in the color schemes of the movie. Flesh tones look very natural, and contrast has been dialed in to near perfection. Black levels are good but not great. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix has some interesting panning effects on occasion, but for a special effects extravaganza such as this one, one expects a busier and more detailed soundtrack. Henry Jackman’s music gets a thorough rendering through the soundstage, and dialogue is always well presented and placed in the center channel. The LFE channel isn’t exploited nearly as much as it could have been for the heavy, thudding giant steps that are a major part of this movie.
Unless otherwise noted, the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
“Scrat's Continental Crack-Up” is a 2 ¾-minute animated short featuring the squirrel character and his beloved acorn from the Ice Age films.
“I Don’t Know” is a faux interview conducted by Jack Black to his character Lem Gulliver about the Bermuda Triangle. It runs 5 ¼ minutes.
The gag reel is actually one extended outtake shot without cutting that runs for 1 ½ minutes.
There are eight deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 18 ¼-minute grouping.
“Little and Large” has director Rob Letterman, production designer Gavin Bocquet, and special effects coordinator Ellen M. Somers explaining how the giant effects for Jack Black were shot and integrated with the playing of the other actors. It runs 8 ¼ minutes.
“Jack Black Thinks Big” explains how effects like foosball and Times Square were created in Lilliput in this 6-minute vignette.
“Down Time” shows several of the actors including Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, and Billy Connolly cutting up on the set, all exclaiming how making the film was their jolliest-ever experience. It runs 4 ½ minutes.
“War Song Dance” presents choreographer Fran Jaynes working with the 250 extras used in this production number and how Black’s movements as part of the dance (shot 100 yards away simultaneously) were accomplished. It runs 5 ¾ minutes.
“Gulliver’s Foosball Game” is an activity where the player's remote is used as a game pad to attempt to beat Gulliver playing foosball.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes.
Four installments in the Fox Movie Channel promotional features are presented in 480i:
- “In Character with Jack Black” has the star telling the story of the film (6 ½ minutes).
- “In Character with Jason Segel” has the actor describing his character and approach to the performance (4 ¾ minutes).
- “Life After Film School” has three film school students interviewing director Rob Letterman asking questions about his previous two animated features (Shark Tale and Monsters Vs. Aliens) and comparing his directorial approach to both (21 ¾ minutes).
- “World Premiere” has interviewer Tava Smiley talking to the stars at the premiere of the movie in Hollywood (6 minutes).
The disc is BD-Live ready and contains one exclusive featurette: a 3 ½-minute “Jack & Jason’s Dance Class” which is really just about their friendship on and off set with just a bare mention of Black’s dance moves.
There are 1080p trailers for Rio, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Marley & Me: The Puppy Years.
The second disc in the package is the DVD version of the movie.
The third disc in the package is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Jack Black fans may enjoy seeing their boy go through his patented bag of tricks for Gulliver’s Travels, but there really is very little of freshness or fun to be found in this release. The Blu-ray does sport an excellent audio and video encode and a fairly large number of bonus features which fans may enjoy.