Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Brendon Connelly
Doctor Who companion Donna, as played by Catherine Tate, might as well have been dipped head-to-toe in Marmite she so sharply divided folk. Love her? Hate her? Funnily enough, and just like Marmite, I could see the appeal, and I could see the reasons for doubt, but I just couldn’t quite climb down off the fence. Also like Marmite, I thought the first taste had me sold on a Yes! but, unfortunately, my feelings turned to be increasingly ambiguous the further I munched.
Tate has now been granted her first role in “a big, kick-off Hollywood film” – her words, not mine. She’ll be in Gulliver’s Travels, alongside Jack Black as a contemporised Lemuel Gulliver and Emily Blunt as who-cares-because-its-not-the-Black-Widow. Tate will be playing the Queen of Lilliput and anybody who knows work has probably already guessed the voice she’ll be putting on.
MSN UK quote Tate as telling The Sun she “can’t believe” she’s been cast. I can. Easily. Hollywood always loads these pseudo-historical-come-fantastical pieces up with English and other European accents. Heck – even Peter Jackson played that game with The Lord of the Rings.
Swift’s original satire is still one of the benchmarks of comedic fiction but, to be honest, it hasn’t even been done even one third right by any of the previous cinematic incarnations – and that’s besides a monster Squirrel from Ray Harryhausen, Bernard Herrman knocking out some crazy score and a load of Fleischer animation. There’s absolutely no reason to suspect that this new adaptation will come anywhere close to its potential either.
Why? Because I don’t think this has been greenlit on the basis of potential for satire, but instead to capitalise on the famous fantastical images, from talking horses to civilizations of tiny people. Tiny people crawling all over Jack Black – can’t you see the poster now? Actually – scrap those talking horses. It hasn’t been confirmed, but I suspect this film will keep to Gulliver’s Lilliputian adventures and his trips to Brondingnag, Laputa and the Country of the Houyhnhnms will be ditched. Just not famous enough. Not expected enough.
To be fair, adapting a work so securely rooted in the mores and cultural touchstones of its time, rich with universal elements or not, is never an easy task. A complete overhaul would be necessary, and then a complete overhaul by somebody with massive literary ambition, strong sense of history and keen satirical ambition. Seeing as Tom Stoppard hasn’t scripted this film we might as well give up hope now.
Jack Black will be mugging on a poster with tiny people all over him around about this time next year, just in time for the spinning corpses of The Scriberlus Club to have drilled to the centre of the Earth. Can somebody, please, just give this wonderful comedian another role worthy of his talents?