The story of Jack and his magical beanstalk dates back to Viking times and over the past 1400 years, we have yet to be sick of it. Countless versions of this story exist in virtually every format of entertainment imaginable. The story is a good one though and in the hands of the talented director Bryan Singer, this version is certainly one of the best.
Jack the Giant Slayer stars Nicholas Hoult whose star is on the rise. Fresh off of his other starring role as R in Warm Bodies, Hoult functions well as the underestimated, romantic hero. The main story is mostly familiar. Jack is trusted with a task to sell items for money, but he returns home with no money and a handful of “magic beans.” The magical properties of the beans are unleashed when they become wet in a rainstorm sending Jack’s house, and inadvertently the King’s daughter Isabelle, up to a legendary land of giants via a massive beanstalk. King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) organizes a team to rescue his daughter lead by his trusted knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and including Jack as well as the plotting Roderick (Stanley Tucci) who the princess has been promised to for marriage.
The giants are truly spectacular. They are easily 20 feet tall and have a very clever form of motivation based on a previous war between man and giant, which resulted in them being magically enslaved by a magic crown. Nonetheless, they are vengeful and dangerous, bringing a real threat of danger and excitement to the story. Furthermore, Singer allows several opportunities for tongue-in-cheek humor to permeate the already clever adventure story that takes place up the beanstalk. Simply put, a strong case is made for Stanley Tucci to have a part in every movie.
The only issue the film has going against it lies in its first act. Singer’s film begins a bit slowly with terse voice-over narration of parallel backstories for young Jack and young Isabelle. The children playing these parts deliver excruciatingly clichéd performances, and it was at this point that I admit I was worried.
Consequently, I must pause here to mention that this review comes with a brief stipulation. When it comes to re-making a fairy-tale, there are many pitfalls that can occur; a major one is choosing the right audience. Aside from this tepid opening segment, Bryan Singer actually has made a film that would exist more comfortably in Middle Earth than in Disney World. It embraces its world of man-eating giants and has fun with it. This decision certainly enhances the film’s entertainment value, but it also takes a familiar children’s tale and puts it just out of reach for children to enjoy. Creating an opening scene so clearly not in congruence with the rest of the film sets the incorrect initial mood that is hard to shake once the movie gets good. However, if you can make the leap, this film definitely functions much better as a romantic action film than as a cute and safe children’s tale.
That being said, I liked Jack the Giant Slayer. I also recommend seeing it in 3-D, which is a recommendation I can honestly say I would give to no more than five films. This is a fun, entertaining, funny, and good looking film that is easy to enjoy once the film figures out what it is and who it’s aimed at. B