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Jonathan R. Scott,
All star adaptation of Jonathan Swift's satirical tale about a normal man who, after returning home following eight years of absence, relates fantastical tales about how he was thought to be giant in the Land of Lilliput, but was only six inches high in the Land of Brobdingnag. He also tells of his visit to the floating island of Laputa populated by scientists who are so obsessed with reason that they act with no common sense. Finally, he tells of his journey to the land where his disturbing likeness to the bestial Yahoos and his inferiority to the intelligent horses there makes him question the very worth of his humanity. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
Swift's writing really has more in common with Kafka and Orwell than with fantasy-adventure writers, so it's curious that Gulliver's Travels has been deemed a children's novel. Lucky kiddies!
The same applies to this movie. There have been some really awful versions of this story, which must be why people are reluctant to look at this version. I mean, it's a TV-movie and it comes from muppetteer Jim Henson, so how should we expect anything but cuteness?
Look again - beauty turns up in the oddest places. Children love this movie enough to sit through all three hours of it, but it also takes the time to get Swift's dark vision right. I hate special effects, but here they are used to carry the story forward instead of just dazzling us. Please note that the producers took the trouble to recruit classical actors like John Gielgud and Peter O'Toole who perform their eccentric roles with perfection.
Dramatically, the romance between Gulliver and Glumdalclitch is rendered touching and poignant, as well as funny (she's a little girl, but twenty times his size). The frame-story has a theme about absent fathers that many children will relate to. And the part about Gulliver in the asylum introduces an element of horror dealing with the abuse of authority (apparently deriving from Val Lewton's "Bedlam" , another forgotten masterpiece).
The VHS is always turning up in the bargain-bin for a few cents, which is an insult to the many great artists who put this thing together. I encourage audiences to recognize a good thing by getting this movie and inspiring others to watch it. Although it has a lot to offer children, grown-ups will find that it stands up nicely to such classics as Aguirre, Brazil, 1984 and other serious fantastic works.
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