A lot of Jack Black goes a very little way in this tiresome adap of Jonathan Swift’s satire, here retooled as an oafish 3D vehicle for its lead, who’s on obnoxious form here.
The postmodern twist is this year’s Lemuel Gulliver is a spineless mail-room employee at a New York tabloid too shy to pursue either career advancement or the affections of comely travel editor Darcy (Amanda Peet).
Landing a writing assignment in the Bermuda Triangle (don’t ask), our hero is instantly transported via CGI storm to the miniature kingdom of Lilliput, a world of midgets who strap him down and imprison him in a cave.
He wins them over by Lilli-putting out a fire with the nearest fluid to hand – a coarse set-piece that sees king Billy Connolly, obsequious courtier James Corden and two-faced general Chris O’Dowd pissed on, quite literally, from a very great height.
Where can Rob Letterman’s Gulliver travel from here? Ever downwards alas, the story reaching its nadir in a giant cinema where Black entertains himself watching live-action recreations of popular Fox hits.
The Murdoch brand is pretty much omnipresent here, an elaborate recreation of Times Square built for Gulliver’s amusement even sporting mock-posters of other Century titles (X-Men, ‘Gavatar’ and so on).
There is surely something askew in a Travels where Jack Bauer earns a mention but Swift doesn’t get a credit.
Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned the scene where a Cyrano-like Lemuel exhorts tiny chum Jason Segel to woo Emily Blunt’s stuck-up princess using lyrics from Prince’s ‘Kiss’.
The solitary saving grace is a surreal, Brobdingnagian interlude in another alt-land where Black becomes the dress-wearing toy of a gargantuan little girl.
But by the time he is leading the Lilliputians in a chorus of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’, you can’t help thinking the hapless soldier last seen disappearing up his butt crack 20 minutes in got off lightly.
A big idea reaps small dividends in a comedy fantasy that’s only likely to score laughs from the tiniest audience members.