A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this modernization of Jonathan Swift's classic satire features everything audiences expect from family-targeted Jack Black movies: physical (including potty) comedy, minor language, and lots of references to popular culture -- particularly movies and music. The sexuality is mostly tame, but there are references to a woman's breasts (as reason enough to marry her), some innuendo, and a few brief kisses. Language includes insults like "stupid" and "lame ass" (repeated several times in one scene). Expect several mentions of/allusions to Mac products, among other brand names. On the bright side, kids should learn about the value of honesty, believing in yourself, and looking beyond someone's status.
What's the story?
In this adaptation of Jonathan Swift's classic satire, Jack Black stars as Lemuel Gulliver, a mailroom clerk at a New York City newspaper, where he's worked for years nursing a crush on travel editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet). When an ambitious new mailroom employee (T.J. Miller) is hired one day and promoted the next, Gulliver decides to approach Darcy for a date -- but instead he makes her think he's interested in becoming a travel writer. After he turns in a plagiarized writing sample, Darcy assigns Gulliver a feature story about the Bermuda Triangle, where he sails into a storm that lands him on the diminutive island kingdom of Lilliput. There, he proves himself a hero, befriends Horatio (Jason Segel) -- a commoner who's in love with Princess Mary (Emily Blunt) -- and proceeds to lie spectacularly about himself to the everyone, since, for once in his life, he's beloved. But everything's in jeopardy when the princess' betrothed, General Edward (Chris O'Dowd), starts to feel threatened.
Is it any good?
Whether you'll enjoy GULLIVER'S TRAVELS or not all boils down to how much you enjoy Black's brand of humor. For those who consider him an irresistible jokester, this is a slightly better-than-average comedy with loads of pop culture references and that signature Black comedy. Audiences who are lukewarm on Black's charm may be less amused by this adaptation, but there are enough silly laughs, talented supporting actors, and broad sight gags (such as the diminutive, fully made-up KISS band) to make this a decent family pick.
Even taking the scenery-chewing Black out of the picture, the Lilliputian cast is good, with Billy Connolly as the always entertaining king, Blunt as the beautiful princess who yearns for more than her status allows, and Segel as the commoner who yearns to woo her. But the stand-out performer is O'Dowd, an Irish actor best known for his work on British television (The IT Crowd). His uptight, self-righteous General Edward is just the right mix of pompous and insecure for what's otherwise a caricaturish character. This fish-out-of-water fantasy isn't necessarily a must-see film, but for Black devotees, it's yet another example of the comedian's Adam Sandler-like ability to remain essentially himself in every movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the movie is saying about believing in yourself. What finally makes Gulliver do the right thing? Why is it easier for him lie about himself than admit the truth?
What do you expect from a Jack Black movie? Is it a given that you'll see him sing, dance, and make fun of his own body? What other film stars use a similar brand of comedy?
Who do you think this movie is meant to appeal to most? Does it succeed? Have you seen any other versions of this story? How does this one compare?
- In theaters: December 25, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: April 19, 2011
- Cast: Amanda Peet, Emily Blunt, Jack Black, Jason Segel
- Director: Rob Letterman
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief rude humor, mild language and action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.