Gulliver's Travels (2010)

Rated: PG for brief rude humor, mild language and action.
Length: 85 minutes
Grade: C,B,C,D=C
Rotten Tomatoes: 20% favorable, 3.9/10 average
Budget: $112 million
Box Office: $234 million (43 U.S., 187 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Joe Stillman (Planet 51, Shrek 1+2, and Joseph King of Dreams) and Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, Yes Man, and Fun with Dick and Jane), based on the novel by Jonathan Swift
Directed by: Rob Letterman (Monsters vs Aliens and Shark Tale)
Starring: Jack Black
With: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, and Chris O’Dowd

A mail room clerk with no ambition and no prospects plagiarizes his way into a travel story assignment in the Bermuda Triangle, which sends him to Lilliput, the famous Swiftian land of little people. Initially imprisoned as a threat, he performs some feats of heroism and becomes the defender of the realm. Then, after befriending a man who loves the King’s daughter but is in jail because she is promised to another, he tries to help him realize true love against an arrogant general.

Entertainment Value: C
I didn’t expect very much from this movie, and that probably helped me tremendously. But in the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the fish-out-of water humor. It’s certainly not anything great or memorable, but it was fairly fun, which fits the tradition of Swift’s novel. It’s a silly story, and the Dr. Seuss fan inside of me never minds a silly story.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence B+, Language BThis is a frustrating movie from a ratings perspective. It’s nowhere near as crude as you would ordinarily expect from Jack Black, but there are moments that definitely justify the PG rating, and even made me cringe letting my boys (7, 4, 2) watch it. In particular, one scene uses the expression “lame-ass” four times. Another has Gulliver urinating on a palace to put out a fire (funny, but vulgar). And a romance with quoting the Prince song “Kiss” and some mild innuendo. Otherwise, it’s only some fairly tame violence. So, it seems like a movie that could easily have been a clean PG, but instead I would say PG-9.

Significant Content: C
The basic problem is that plagiarism and lying turn out to be the key to doing something magical in life, with some consequences, but everything works out eventually. The positive message seems to be about pursuing true love, being willing to take an adventure, and going for it, generally. Also, don’t think too little of yourself because you have more to offer than you realize.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
It’s not a pretty movie, nor is it all that great an adaptation of the original. Plus, there isn’t much thought value during or after.

Discussion Questions:
~Gulliver feels the need to make up stories about his exploits in a distant land to gain popularity with the Lilliputs. Was this really necessary? Why did he do it? What happens when we feel our own lives aren’t interesting enough? Have you ever felt tempted to exaggerate something you’ve done to gain approval? How does the Bible help solve this problem for us?
~Do you think a life of risk or adventure is inherently better than a life of ordinary activity? Is travel or excitement satisfying enough to meet our deepest needs?
~Gulliver achieves his opportunity by plagiarizing other people’s work. Does this seem like a good way to get something?
~Is Gulliver afraid to ask Darcy out for legitimate reasons or foolish ones? Does their friendship/romance seem plausible to you?
~Why might it take the experience of actually being special for his size for Gulliver to realize that he might be special even back in New York? What does the Bible say about our specialness?
~Although we don’t have different sized people, our society certainly makes some people large and others small (influence, money, fame, etc.) based on their abilities or other factors. Do you think the idea of big and little people is something the Bible would support?

Overall Grade: C
Silly fun without a lot of substance, but with just enough sporadic and inexplicable vulgarity to keep young kids away.

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