Last Thursday I traveled to LA for a press event I had been looking forward to for quite some time: a screening of the movie Gullivers Travels with the opportunity to interview three of the movie’s fabulous stars: Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel.
While I was waiting to board the plane I received a phone call from my tween, middle school son. He told me a few kids from school, friends since kindergarten, were acting mean toward him and he was disappointed. I tried to make him feel better about the situation, but I could not shake the thought of my son feeling “small” while other kids proclaimed themselves “the big kids on campus”.
Of course, the parallel between real life and art was striking that night when I attended the movie screening. The Gullivers Travels movie, based on the popular book by Jonathan Swift, showcases main character Lemuel Guliver feeling like a “small man in a big pond” before he goes on a journey that forces him to overcome his fears and have the courage to reach his goals.
GIVEAWAY: At the bottom of this post I will provide details on my giveaway: One Gullivers Travels movie poster signed by Jack Black, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. I even saw them sign the poster so this is for real!
Here is the movie trailer for a glimpse of the special effects that brought the story to life. The movie is in 3D, so for the moment just imagine that added dimension of things coming out of the screen:
Gullivers Travels The Movie will debut in theatres on December 25, 2010 and stars Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Chris O’Dowd, Catherine Tate and Billy Connolly. The screenplay is by Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller, based on the book by Jonathan Swift. The movie is directed by Rob Letterman with Jack Black as one of the Executive Producers. The MPAA Rating is PG and the genre is adventure comedy.
Plot Outline (provided to the press group):
“In a modern, 3D family comedy take on the classic tale, Jack Black (star of “Kung Fu Panda” and “ School of Rock ”) is Lemuel Gulliver, a lowly mailroom clerk at a New York newspaper. After Gulliver bluffs his way into an assignment writing about the Bermuda Triangle, he goes there only to be transported to an undiscovered land, Lilliput. In this fantastical new world, Gulliver is, at last, a bigger-than-life figure — in size and ego – especially after he starts telling tall tales, taking credit for his world’s greatest inventions, and placing himself at the center of its most historic events. Gulliver’s position is enhanced even further when he leads his new friends in a daring battle against their longtime enemies. But when Gulliver loses it all and puts the Lilliputians in peril, he must find a way to undo the damage. Ultimately, Gulliver becomes a true giant among men only when he learns that it’s how big you are on the inside that counts.”
Those who read the book Gullivers Travels, as I did many years ago, will see that the author created an adventure reflecting on the many sides of humor nature; from miopic, petty, and irrational to brave, creative and compasionate. The book also had an anti-war undertone.
Now take that story and put a “Jack Black” spin on it. With the added bonus that he is a dad himself (he has 2 small sons aged 2 and 4).
Jack Black has the ability to combine the many sides of a character together in way that is not only very entertaining, but also very endearing. His version of Lemuel Gulliver initially shows his struggles with fear and feeling “small”, then rises to a pinnacle of comical lying in order to become King of the Lilliputians. Inspired by his best friend (the Lilliputian Horatio played by Jason Segel), he overcomes his fears to save his one true love (Amanda Peet as Lemuel’s boss Darcy Silverman).
Jason Segel brought charm to his role as Horatio, who thinks of himself as a “lower class” Lilliputian unable to win over his true love (Emily Blunt as Princess Mary) until he performs a valient act. Emily Blunt showed her girlie side as Princess Mary while also showcasing the Princess’ inner strength against the pompous Edward (played with a great sense of comedy by Chris O’Dowd).
The movie brings modern twists to the book, written in 1726, with great attention to detail. For example:
- The Lilliputians build a house for Gulliver that has, if you look closely, intricate details on modern looking furniture and household items that makes it look like it was built by tiny person. The 22:1 size ratio between Gulliver and the Lilliputians create a believable vision of a giant in a tiny world.
- In Gulliver’s Bachelor pad, a Guitar Hero-like video game is played using a stage and Lilliputians dressed as the band KISS. When Gulliver “pauses” the game, the Lillputians freeze.
- One of the items Gulliver has with him when he arrives in Lilliput is a magazine with instructions how to “build a robot”, which one of Gulliver’s adversaries builds and uses against him in battle.
Similar to the book, some scenes could be labeled as potty humor. Personaly, I found those parts of the movie very funny (and I am sure my kids will, too). In our interview we asked Jack Black if he had read the book. Of course, he answered with the comic timing that he displays in all of his movies, Black said, “Actually — I read it just before I got here so that I could answer questions.” Black later added, “We actually cut out a lot of potty humor that was in the book.” I also found the fight scenes to be appropriate for kids.
There is also a girly side to the movie, with Emily Blunt as the beautiful Princess Mary. The Bloggers in the interview commented that the “clothes in this movie are incredible” and asked her if she “enjoyed having those feminine items to wear.” Blunt shared, “I did, actually. I think it’s nice to dress up. It’s nice to feel a part of a spectacle sometimes, because you can so often fall into what feels familiar, you know? And I think that that’s the joy of acting, that you get to have these experiences, and that you get to discover a different side to you.”
The bloggers then discussed with Blunt how she presented the Princess Mary character with a confident edge, and how we thought the character was a good role model for girls and women. Blunt responded, “I think it’s a good message for women that you’ve got to follow your heart..Because at the beginning, she (Princess Mary) conforms and she’s very obedient and she’s kind of whimsical and silly. And then, Gulliver really encourages her to be a modern woman and think for herself and not necessarily follow orders.”
While there were beautiful princess dresses, the movie also had impressive technology behind the scenes that created a believable movie fantasy land. The visual effects house hy*drau”lx collaborated with Director Rob Letterman along with contributors from WETA Digital, who worked on other premier special effects movies including “Avatar”,”Lord of the Rings” and “King Kong”. During the press rountables, Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel discussed how they were acting in the same building, but on diffferent sound stages so close that they could hear each other’s lines. They explained how DualMoCo (motion controlled) cameras were used to bring the giant Gulliver and the tiny Lilliputians together into the same scene.
Adding to the “fantasy meets reality” feel was the beautiful, rich scenery of the locations used, including England’s Blenheim Palace and the Old Royal Naval College. The actors who played the Lilliputians and the Blefuscian Army brought to life the book’s old fashioned view of the world. Combined with the comedy radiating from the giant Jack Black, it was an immensely entertaining experience.
Just imagine Jack Black as a Giant fighting off the Blefuscian Army canons with his stomach or being pulled down and secured by tiny Lilliputian strings. It was a hoot!
During the interview Black shared how he prepared to act with tiny people: “Well, it doesn’t sound like real professional actor preparation. But, I do play with a lot of toys to get ready for the giant and tiny person relationships. And luckily I had a bunch of toys at home, because my kids have them everywhere.”
That preparations showed in the interaction of Black as the Giant Gulliver with the tiny Lilliputians and Blefuscuians. Throughout the movie there were puns that added even more comedy including Jack Black playing with Stars Wars figures as part of his morning routine before his work in the mail room and later telling tales to the Lilliputians of his epic battle with Darth Vader and his Vice President Yoda. As a mom of three boys who create their own adventures with nerf guns and other toys, I related to those scenes on many levels.
The anti-war theme from the book is presented in the movie with a dance scene like no other, paired to a song like no other, “What Is It Good For” by Edwin Starr. Black’s version (worked on with John Kimbrough) came complete with baroque instruments and with a dance scene shot on location in Greenwich, England. I could watch that scene over and over again.
I felt inspired by the “courage overcoming insecurity” theme of the movie. When asked about this theme, Black explained, “That’s a theme that we thought would be great that’s not really in the book. But, since it deals with a giant and tiny people, we thought it would be cool to have that insecurity theme about being a small person in a big man’s world and being, insecure about being lost in the shuffle.
And I think that ties in really well with kids’ insecurities about being the little guys and wanting so desperately to be big, famous heroes.”
The Bloggers added that Gulliver was trying to convince so many people in Lilliput that he was somebody else. Black responded “Yes. I think you nailed the central theme. In a nutshell its basically you don’t have to pretend to be the president or you don’t have to be a big shot. You just have to have a big heart and be kind to your loved ones. That’s what it comes down to.”
We also discussed the friendship between Jason Segel’s “Horatio” character and Black’s “Gulliver” which was one of the central themes of the movie. When we asked Black to identify his favorite part of the move, he said, “My favorite scene is probably when I’m giving advice, when I’m whispering to my little buddy Horatio on what to say to the princess.” Jason Segel also shared that this is one of his favorite scenes as well.
I left the movie feeling confident that my son can work through his feelings of wanting to fit in, have the courage to stand up for himself and stand by his buddies who understand and appreciate friendship.
Here is a picture of the mom bloggers at the event with Jack Black:
Picture top left to right: Sunny Chanel, Sara McGinnis, Jill Kloster, Michelle Fiordaliso, Beth Blecherman. Middle Left to right: Kim Grundy, Erica Fehrman, Jack Black, Colleen Padilla. Front: Kristen Flannery.
At the press round table where we met Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel – they all took turns signing posters for us. I thought it would be fun to share one of those posters with my readers.
Picture above is Jason Segel (who is as charming as his character in the movie) taking his turn signing the poster.
After Emily Blunt signed the poster, we had the chance to take a picture with her. I tried my best to keep my cool even though I was standing next to one of my favorite actresses who I also consider a fashion icon.
Date: Giveaway is open from December 18 2:45pm to Dec 24 12pm pst. To enter, please leave a comment with what you would do if you washed up on shore in Lilliput.
A winner will be picked at random and announced on Dec 27 12pm pst. When commenting, please leave a valid email in the email addressed not displayed with the comment. Winners must provide a valid email address.
Photo credits: © 20th Century Fox
Disclosures: My travel expenses to attend the screening and press rountable were covered. This is not a sponsored post.Yes, I did have trouble trying not to be too star struck while being part of a group interviewing Jack Black, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt.
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