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Movie Review: "Jack the Giant Slayer"

movies-jack-the-giant-slayer-quad-posterBy Van Roberts

Bryan Singer has made his share of memorable movies.  “The Usual Suspects,” “X-Men,” and “X-Men 2” qualify as unforgettable. Unfortunately, he has directed some stinkers.  After watching “Superman Returns,” “Apt Pupil,” and “Valkyrie,” you’ll want to forget them.
Unfortunately, Singer’s eighth film, “Jack the Giant Slayer” (* OUT OF ****), qualifies as his worst.  This uninspired Warner Brothers release suffers from sketchy characters without charisma, hackneyed storytelling without surprises, and lackluster larger-than-life CGI-effects.  Mind you, “Jack the Giant Slayer” is half-baked hokum, but this is the least of its flaws.  I’ve watched it both in 2-D and 3-D.  Believe me, 3-D adds nothing to it.  Nothing flies out at you.  Since “Alice in Wonderland” made costume-clad figures in folklore fashionable, Hollywood has been dusting off these venerable yarns.  “Snow White and the
Huntsman” benefitted from its revisionist take with Snow White suiting up for combat like a knight.  “Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters” abandoned all credibility with its anachronistic “Rambo” arsenal but gave us likeable heroes.  A spin on Jack and the Beanstalk” was inevitable.  The last time Hollywood appropriated this folklore for a
movie was “Jack the Giant Killer” back in 1962.  Reportedly, another version is in the works with Ben Cross starring in “Jack the Giant Killer.” Fairy tale purists should know Singer and scenarists Darrin Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney have given us two Jacks for the price of one.  They have synthesized “Jack and the Beanstalk” with “Jack the Giant Killer” for their uneven, mock-heroic adaptation.
“Jack the Giant Slayer” unfolds in the medieval monarchy of Cloister in Albion.  Two children destined from birth to collide with each other listen to their parents spin a yarn about magical beans and a race of giants.  We are treated to a scaled-down, power-point version of the myth about King Erik who slew an army of giants.  According to this far-out fantasy, monks developed special beans whose stalk enabled them to ascend into the heavens and commune with God.  Instead of experiencing the sublime ecstasy of Heaven, the monks encountered man-eating giants.  These Goliaths inhabited a realm of their own above the clouds.  The land these flesh-colored giants call home bears absolutely no resemblance to the land of the blue-skinned natives in the movie “Avatar.” Naturally, these Goliaths chase the monks down the massive beanstalk and create chaos on Earth.  The monks obtain the heart of a giant, cook it and use the powder in a crown that they have forged to control the giants.  As the parents conclude this nonsense, they point out that King Erik took both the beans or the crown to his grave. Ten years later, the lad grows up to be Jack (Nicholas Hoult of “Warm Bodies”), a poor farm boy living with an ungrateful uncle instead of his mother.  Jack shares a lot in common with Luke Skywalker of “Star Wars.”  The lass becomes Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson of “The Sarah Jane Adventures”), and she is the sole heir to her single-father’s throne.
Isabelle drives her father crazy with her reckless behavior.  Basically, she is your stereotypical damsel-in-distress.  Once she masquerades as a commoner and runs afoul of shady characters.  Jack intervenes to deliver Isabelle from them, only to find himself bowing down to her father’s second-in-command, Elmont (Ewan McGregor of “Black Hawk Down”), after they have plucked her from peril.  Later, Elmont remembers Jack after Isabelle vanishes in Jack’s house.  At this point, Jack has been cheated out of a horse.  In the tale, he was cheated out of a cow.  Anyway, he gives his uncle’s horse to a desperate monk whose collateral is a fistful of magic beans.  Naturally, Jack’s uncle reprimands him and scatters the beans in contempt.  One bean lands under their house. Later that evening, Isabelle shows up lost at Jack’s door seeking directions.  Before she knows it, that one little bean under the house
sprouts, and an incredible stalk erupts that carries the Jack’s house aloft into the realm of the giants.  King Brahmwell (Ian McShane of “Death Race”), Elmont, and Isabelle’s fiancé Roderick (Stanley Tucci of “Gambit”), establish camp at the base of the beanstalk.  While the King sweats out the outcome, Jack, Elmont, and Roderick climb the stalk and encounter giants led by a two-headed fiend named Fallon. Apart from being predictable, “Jack the Giant Slayer” relies more on humor rather than suspense.  The closest it comes to being suspenseful is when Jack hides in a pond while a giant wades past him.  Singer uses the giants for comic relief rather than action.  They amount to humongous hicks who gobble their own boogers, munch on human noggins, and pass gas without a qualm.  The leader of the giants, Fallon (Bill Nighty of “Underworld”), bickers with the other puny head attached to his shoulder.  Eventually, Fallon obtains the crown and the giants storm the castle after we are led to believe that Isabelle is safe.  Singer orchestrates a boisterous endgame on the scale of “The Lord of the Rings” without any of its tenacity.  The fights look just as sloppy as anything you’d see in a WWE fight.
Despite all its violence, “Jack the Giant Slayer” is an immaculate melodrama without a speck of blood.  Nevertheless, the villains display no mercy when they plot cold-blooded murder, and neither do the Giants when they snack on humanity like cannibals.  The enchanted beans spring to life almost as quickly as a Mogwai changes into a Gremlin after being doused with water after midnight.  Ultimately, “Jack the Giant Slayer” looks like a bad synthesis of “The Princess Bride” and “Clash of the Titans.” Several good actors are squandered, primarily Ian McShane as the King.  Nicholas Hoult is appropriately heroic.  Eleanor Tomlinson is sorely miscast as Isabelle.  Together, this mismatched couple generates little romantic chemistry.  The best scene finds Ewan McGregor’s Elmont rolled up in a meat pie in a giant’s bakery.  Altogether, “Jack the Giant Slayer” amounts to a huge waste of time.

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2 comments

  1. Amy

    Jack the Giant Slayer was AWESOME!!!
    Great family movie or just to go see a truly good movie – finally a great movie again!!

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