Ebulliently imaginative and far more cleverly presented than you would expect from a TV miniseries, this satirical adventure succeeds by never pandering to the lowest common denominator. Closely based on Jonathan Swift's 1... more »726 classic, it is enhanced by dazzling special effects from Jim Henson Productions and a superb, multi-ethnic cast. The biggest surprise is Ted Danson in the title role--one of his best performances, even if he is the only person in England without an accent. He conveys amusement, amazement, and intelligence as he travels from one strange country into another. Not that anyone back in Merry Old England believes Mr. Gulliver's tales of little people or giants. The story is told in flashback from an insane asylum, where he is forcibly confined. This far outshines several previous adaptations of Swift's satirical novel. --Rochelle O'Gorman« less
D. Roberts | Battle Creek, Michigan United States | 12/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Contrary to popular belief, Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" was never intended to be simply a children's fantasy / fairy tale. Although the Lilliputans are cute as heck, this story has some serious overtones. As a matter of fact, although more subtle perhaps, there are aspects of this tale which are as dark and bitter as the commentaries on humankind written by the likes of Dostoevsky, Camus and Kafka. Jonathan Swift never was a very happy man.This rendition of Swift's classic is, in a word, fabulous. It reaches to the heart of the message Swift was trying to convey while at the same time is accessible to all. It is also appropriate for a family to watch. I cannot remark enough on just how well done this film was; it would have been so easy to do a half-baked job and let it be yet another ambitious television movie that somehow went awry. I'm so glad that didn't happen here.In truth, I have never cared too much for Ted Danson. However, in this film he delivers a surprisingly exceptional performance. So much so, in fact, that looking back I can't imagine anyone else as Gulliver. The rest of the cast did a superb job as well, and the inclusion of Peter O'Toole as the king of the Lilliputans was a great touch. (Then again, when can having Peter O'Toole in the cast of a movie ever HURT?) The direction and the way they chose to tell the story was wonderfully done. The soundtrack (written by Trevor Jones, who co-wrote the soundtrack to "The Last Of The Mohicans" among other things) was right on the $$$ for emotionally gripping scenes. This is the type of ambitious, fervent film-making that studios can be proud of. If one Jonathan Swift were around today, I have no doubt that he could not and would not have asked for a better adaptation of his prose. A GREAT movie!"
An Immodest Production
Robert Carlberg | Seattle | 10/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recall being enormously impressed with this 2-part made-for-TV movie when it was first broadcast in 1996, and the intervening twelve years have not diminished it any. The production is fairly true to Swift's original, and contains many innovative and surprisingly-effective special effects (for the time). All of the cast members give boffo performances, particularly hammy Peter O'Toole in the role of a lifetime. But most impressive of all is the gentle and very sly interweaving of fantasy and insanity, where Lemuel Gulliver's state of mind continuously shifts between frames of reference both in size and veracity.
Swift's vulgar sense of humor is given free expression, and the biting satire of his political wit still rings familiar 270 years later. The film contains the free-wheeling giddiness of Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981) and the time- and frame-of-reference-shifting vertigo of "Smoke Signals" (1998). Tiny details and thrown-away background elements make it a production for rewarding repeated viewing.
In short this is a film of Brobdingnagian proportions which has received Lilliputian acclaim. This is a gap of Yahooian injustice."
I know I usually give 4 stars as my best...
Photoscribe | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA | 01/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"But this Hallmark TV production was so exceptional, I felt five was the least this sucker deserved.
This was the first of an extended series of high-toned TV movies produced by Robert Halmi Sr. for NBC and ABC that had production values previously unseen on television. In art direction and general feel, this production of the Jonathan Swift classic resembled "Amadeus" more than it resembled "The Winds Of War" or "Mother, Can I Sleep With Danger?".
And considering the choice for the titular lead, comic actor and former model Ted Danson, it could have been a real disaster. It wasn't! The man acquits himself nicely as the somewhat incredulous Lemuel Gulliver, the hero of a satirical tale told by the very cynical Jonathan Swift, Britain's answer to Voltaire. (Actually, Voltaire was a good deal younger than Swift and "Gulliver's Travels" was written 32-33 years before "Candide", allegedly, but they _were_ contemporaries, and had even met!)
The story features very fanciful alllusions to pettiness, classic paranoia of the delusions of grandeur variety, pomposity, a favorite target of Swift's, and superciliousness. There's the tiny Lilliputians, their opposites, the Brondignagians, the equine Houiynihms, (who, I seem to remember, were supposed to resemble giraffes as well,) and many other fantastic characters, all rendered beautifully in this, the first of a distinguished list of first rate classical adaptations shown on NBC in the late 90s.
The cast list is unbelievable...people who had NEVER been on TV before, like Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, James Fox, Isabelle Huppert, Geraldine Chaplin (hello!), Shashi Kapoor and John Gielgud were sprinkled all through it. The sets are incredible and acting superb. If either this or the later "The Odyssey" had been released as feature films, they would have garnered significant praise for production values and acting, as well as fidelity to their sources, (despite some serious key scene omissions,) and probably would have generated respectable box office.
Special effects, cinematography and scene direction made this a good bellwether for a raft of films unlike any TV had ever seen since the fifties, when top quality productions of plays by well known playwrights peppered prime time schedules.
The general take on the story treats the main character, Lemuel Gulliver, as someone just about everybody, including his wife, for a while, thinks is certifiably insane, as he keeps rambling on about the fantastic lands and people he has supposedly seen. Most of the "real world" story, in fact, takes place in either an asylum, where he has been committed, or a courtroom, where his case is being heard.
It's obvious to the viewer, too, that Lemuel has dreamt all of this, because these places couldn't possibly exist. However, a real curve ball is thrown in the end when a truly diminutive sheep is found and provided as evidence that at least proves Lilliput existed.
Mary Steenbergen went on after this, ( a lot of the actors were recycled in future productions of this type by Halmi,) to portray the wife of Noah in a gawd-awful NBC production of "Noah's Ark", a production that mated the story of Lot and Sodom & Gomorah, (sans Abraham,) with the story of the flood. There was a ridiculous dream sequence inserted in this disaster that showed that Halmi's production crew was getting a WEE bit too satisfied with itself as Steenbergen, especially, spoke bubbleheaded lines that seemed WAY out of place for the setting of the story.
She should have stuck with 18th century satires! :-)"
Special effects almost in the same league as those in Star W
Tom Brody | Berkeley, CA | 12/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film is told by way of flash backs. Gulliver (Ted Danson) finds himself ashore in England after a harrowing nine year absence from home. Unfortunately, once back at home in England, he suffers from periodic flashbacks wherein he provides narratives about his adventures in Lilliput, Brobdingnag, on a flying island, and elsewhere. Also unfortunately, even his wife (Mary Steenbergen; wife in real life too) does not believe the contents of his flash-back narratives. For example, towards the end of the movie she is asked if she believes her husband. Instead of saying "no," she avoids the question by replying, "I believe in him."
Everybody will be able to enjoy the brightly colored pomp and fanfares found in the various kingdoms that are encountered during Gulliver's travels. The special effects are almost as good as those found in the early Star Wars movies. Unlike most adventure movies, the movie under review has a high degree of character development. The credentials of the actors, e.g., Peter O'Toole, speak for themselves. Excellent "character actors" are also found, such as the rustic wheat farmer who discovers Gulliver and displays him in a one-man circus. In addition to the special effects, the presence of a boy character (Gulliver's son) and a girl character (wheat farmer's daughter) enhance the attraction of the film for kids.
What the movie is really "about" is not tiny villagers, flying islands, or talking horses. What the movie is really about is certain bizarre aspects of the social order, found at the time of Swift's writing. For example, one goal of the Gulliver story was to protest the practice of selling (as opposed to voting) government positions. Therefore, it might be to the advantage of any viewer, or parent, to become familiar with the social/political customs prevalent at the time. A suitable book (which actually covers France, not England), is The French Revolution and Human Rights by Lynn Hunt (1996). As with the Gulliver movie, this book explains the existance of formalized upper and lower classes, and the practice of selling government positions.
An outstanding rendering
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 01/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Johnathan Swift's beloved satire has amused readers for over 250 years, and shows no signs of waning. So many people have loved (or at least read) it, that it presents difficult target for movie-makers. No matter how they render it, they're sure to violate someone's image of the story. Despite a very few flaws, this version works remarkably well.
For one thing, it presents a reasonably complete telling of Lemuel Gulliver's story. I haven't read the original lately, but this seems to cover the entire tale, not just famous favorites like the visit to Lilliput. It also covers some of the moments that other versions skip, like putting out the Lilliputian palace fire. A parody of academic research holds up well, too, and might be even more relevant today than when Swift poked fun at the Royal Society's experimenters. Competent special effects make it easy to suspend disbelief for the film's duration.
Perhaps it's unfair, but the high points of this recreation work so well that the few low points seem even lower by contrast. The visit to Brobdingnag retains its political bite, buthis made-for-TV movie had to cut a few "adult" moments from Swift's version. The Struldbrugs really suffered at this director's hands, though. Perhaps there was some political correctness issue in toning their senility down, but that passage lost nearly all the impact of the original.
The good outweighs the bad, however, and the good includes some remarkable star power, including Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, and John Gielgud in brief but significant roles. The storytelling format works too, as flashbacks of story bubble up through Gulliver's damaged mind. This two-disc set is sure to brighten many rainy afternoons, as long as your younger viewers aren't skittish sorts.