THE BLOG
12/24/2010 11:55 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Would Jonathan Swift Think of Jack Black's Gulliver ?

New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott penned his review of the new rendition of Gulliver's Travels in the voice of Jonathan Swift, the satirist who wrote the original work. "Now, my good Sir, I hope I do not err in venturing a Comparison. Perhaps you are familiar with 'Night at the Museum'?" Scott writes. Others have taken to comparing the original work to this Jack Black-led comedy. "He's mainly a jolly giant here," says one critic. When director Rob Letterman took certain liberties in updating the tale to click with a younger, modern audience, did he stray too far from the original Swift story?

It doesn't stay true to the book: "In spite of surface similarities," says Chris Knight in National Post, "the film has little in common with the novel of old." The novel was a "send-up of England and France, their enmity, politics, customs, religious divisions and foibles. The movie is merely a safe-for-kids rom-com with an emphasis on (pun unavoidable) personal growth." What we get is "a tame tale, neither as clever as might be hoped nor as tasteless as one might fear."

It isn't all bad...: "There is one moment when Black's physical comedy meshes perfectly with Swift's metaphysical bleakness," says Rick Groen in The Globe and Mail. Swift "had a fixation with bodily functions" and Jack Black's Gulliver honors that with the scene where he extinguishes a fire with his urine - "Only then do the two Blacks, Jack's mannerisms and Jonathan's mind, find common ground." Soon after, however, "the chubby one is soon back to being a giant annoyance."

It has Swiftian spirit: "Jonathan Swift was a cheeky dude in his time, nearly 300 years ago," says Steve Persall in the St. Petersburg Times. This film proves that "grossness is timeless." It's a "fractured fairy tale" that makes "Swiftian work of 21st century culture, even Guitar Hero and Transformers." And "Gulliver's Travels couldn't arrive at a better time for moviegoers, when dramas are angling for awards and Little Fockers passes for comedy. This is what the holidays need: a good, Swift kick in the funny bone."