GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (PG)***

The subtle, underlying themes of Jonathan Swift's classic novel are almost completely lost on this contemporary adaptation of Gulliver's Travels.

However, it's hard for Rob Letterman's film to tread lightly with comic dynamo Jack Black in the title role.

The actor bulldozes through every scene like a child who has been gorging on sweets and needs to burn off pent-up energy before he combusts.

It comes as no surprise when the Lilliputian court goes up in flames that this Gulliver (unlike in some more sanitised retellings of Swift's earthy satire) gets to extinguish the inferno by emptying the contents of an extremely full bladder.

And when it comes to defeating the Blefuscudian armada, the hero's generously proportioned belly provides the perfect protection against a barrage of miniature cannonballs.

Were it not for a brief foray into a land of giants that we assume to be Brobdingnag, Letterman's adventure would be merely Gulliver's Travel.

Unless of course the title is wishful thinking that this could be the first instalment of a series.

In truth, it's hard to imagine this fantasy taking enough at the box office to warrant a trip to Laputa or the country of the Houyhnhnms.

Lemuel Gulliver (Black) works in the post room of a New York newspaper, where he pines for travel editor Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet) from afar.

In order to impress the object of his affections, Gulliver blags a travel assignment to the Bermuda Triangle. Heading out to sea on his boat Notfersail, Gulliver is swept into a massive, swirling column of water and when he regains consciousness, he discovers that he is a giant in the land of Lilliput.

Feared at first by the tiny inhabitants, Gulliver ingratiates himself to King Theodore (Billy Connolly), Queen Isabelle (Catherine Tate) and their daughter Princess Mary (Emily Blunt).

"I'm from the island of Manhattan between the islands of Staten and Long," explains Gulliver, pretending that he is known as President The Awesome back in New York, serving his people alongside Vice President Yoda.

Mary is betrothed to dull, blustering General Edward (Chris O'Dowd).

She much prefers lowly Horatio (Jason Segel) but Lilliputian law dictates that only someone who commits a truly heroic deed can ask for the princess's hand in marriage.

Gulliver's Travels is bombastic and garish, broadly exploring the corruption of a humble man before gifting him a chance at redemption.

Black can barely keep a straight face as he gambols from one digital effects sequence to the next.

The romantic subplot with Darcy is laughable, and not in a good way, but Segel is endearing as a commoner hoping to love above his station and Blunt, Connolly and Tate have fun with their plummy royals, who naively accept Gulliver's tall tales.

"Don't you miss your subjects, the White House and the Millennium Falcon?" asks Mary with genuine concern.

Enough with the Star Wars gags.