Fee-fi-fo-flop goes “Jack The Giant Slayer,” director Bryan Singer’s effects-laden 3-D reimagining of the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Fee-fi-fo-flop goes “Jack The Giant Slayer,” director Bryan Singer’s effects-laden 3-D reimagining of the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The script from a trio of writers -- Christopher McQuarrie, (who teamed with Singer on “The Usual Suspects”), Darren Lemke and Dan Studney -- is a darker take on the children’s story. Think: a bloated episode of “Grimm” or “Once Upon a Time.” They throw a lot in the fast-moving script, including a Giant fart gag, a double-cross, a love-against-the-odds scenario, and, well, if you know the fairy tale, you know what happens.
If you’re not up on your English folk tales, the film opens with a refresher on “Jack and the Beanstalk” brought alive by some cool CGI. From there, it all goes down the beanstalk. The only delights are the film’s three stars – Nicholas Hoult (Jack), Eleanor Tomlinson (Princess Isabelle) and Ewan McGregor (Elmont). Hoult (“Warm Bodies”) and Tomlinson (making a beautiful royal) are endearing together, and yes, you do root for them, even though a noble girl isn’t supposed to take up with a farm boy. Credit that to the performances, not the material and rote lines they’re ask to speak. The always-reliable McGregor -- and his magnificent hair, which remains perfectly coiffed even after battling an army of giants -- makes the most of his part as the leader of the king’s (Ian McShane) elite guard.
I don’t want to spill the beans, but Jack gets his hands on the magic legumes, which can’t get damp or, like Gremlins, bad things will happen. Naturally, they do. Jack, who’s acrophobic, is charged with climbing up the beanstalk to save the adventure-thirsty princess. He ends up in a battle with a race of vengeful giants.
The movie has romance and risk, but is missing a key ingredient: excitement. Characters are not left lingering in peril and intermittent charm only grips you for so long. Plus, there’s this creepy arranged engagement between Stanley Tucci’s deceitful Roderick and teen-queen-to-be, Isabelle, who desires to marry for love, not the politics of the crown. Tucci, per usual, steals his fair share of the movie, as Roderick’s thirst for power grows taller than the beanstalk.
Visually, the film was shot in 3-D, which provides depth and detail when the emerald green beanstalk spirals and grows to unimaginable heights. Otherwise, the extra dimension doesn’t enhance the experience as much as you might expect. It does, however, amplify the ugliness of the Giants. The super-sized creatures are scaly and hairy with disgusting brown-stained teeth -- as far away from the Jolly Green Giant as you can get. In a stop-motion performance, Billy Nighy is General Fallon, the leader, set on destroying the kingdoms in England. Nighy’s voice is adequately menacing, but never raises the threat level. Children under 7 might be scared, but the Giants are really more ghoulish than gruesome, even though they pick up people to eat like candy bars. There’s battles but never any bloodshed, making this a some-what gentle “Giant.”
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PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language. Cast includes Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor. Grade: B-
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