Everyone has heard of Jack and the Beanstalk. If you haven’t, you should get out from underneath that rock you live under and invest in some Old English Fairy Tales. I’m also sorry your childhood sucked. Come on, seriously, if you haven’t, where have you been for the last 200 years? This is a story every one heard growing up and is about as popular as Jack and Jill, The 3 Little Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood. Jack the Giant Slayer may also remind you of another recent “moral to movie” motion picture entitled Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. While both films have similar historical backgrounds, these films are completely different in presentation. That being said, movie makers tend to pull at audiences heart strings for a reason. We grew up with these stories and therefore associate a lot of emotion with the stories if they are done well. If they are not, well… the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Or fail for that matter.
It feels really unnecessary to give a synopsis of a story like Jack the Giant Slayer. By the way, Jack the Giant Killer and Jack and the Beanstalk are two separate stories. In this film, they are compiled into one. Not sure why that’s important but I say it is. Anyways, Jack the Giant Slayer is a heroic story, and is more about Jack than the beanstalk.
In this story, Jack (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies) is a young farmhand who travels to town in order to sell his uncle’s horse and cart. While there, he notices a young woman, Isabelle, (Eleanor Tomlinson, The Illusionist), who turns out to be the princess. Jack also happens to run into a monk looking to escape town. He buys his horse, but tells Jack he can only give him some “magic” beans. Jack, of course, refuses, but being the trusting lad he is, agrees to them as a down payment. Back to that princess, she likes excitement like most girls and one night while out seeking such excitement becomes lost in the rain and ends up back at Jack’s home. Rather convenient for Jack, eh? I would say so. So the beans, of course, get wet and Poof! A magic beanstalk rises out of nowhere and carries Jack’s house and his lady friend up into the sky. Jack dutifully sets out to rescue her with the assistance of Elmont (Ewan McGregor, The Impossible), leader of the king’s guard. This pursuit is complicated by the assistance of Lord Rodderick (Stanley Tucci, 30 Rock) a corrupt king’s advisor and a population of giants above the clouds led by Fallon, a two-headed giant (Big head: Bill Nighy, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Small Head: John Kassir, Tales from the Crypt). Eventually, Jack is able to find Isabelle within the giant’s castle in the clouds, but in doing so may have given them a chance to journey back down the beanstalk. Jack learns that there may be more to Lord Rodderick’s plan and struggles to find a way to rescue his whole town from a giant onslaught.
While I love the idea of putting a new twist on old fairy tale stories, the bulk of this movie left me feeling uninspired. The film itself is truly entertaining but continued to lack in imagination. I am a huge fan of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which had similarities in fairy tale lore, but this film slips up while riding on that film’s coattails. One of the biggest concerns for me is the special effects. They are absolutely horrible. The shriveled beanstalk appears more like an overgrown weed at times, and the green screening is like watching a bad weather man fight a kitty cat.
At moments I wasn’t sure if I was watching a movie or a 1988 stop motion cartoon. The giants in this film appear awkward. It is a giant wreck. Truthfully, the special effects are not even the worst part. I don’t know how anyone could have written such a poorly thought out movie. There are enough plot holes to play golf in, and I could not stop laughing at Ewan McGregor’s hair. It is like a pompadour and a poodle had a baby on top of his head. At least, the hair kept me distracted from his bad acting. The CGI could be considered sophisticated next to some of the lines presented by McGregor throughout this movie. I stand by the fact that McGregor is a good actor, so he must have been given some truly horrible lines and direction. This is visibly different from his acting in The Impossible. It is not just McGregor either. The giants seem overly disgusting, but only because the film appears to be reaching to a younger audience with the booger picking, farting, and armpit smelling. It is annoying. They also seem to continuously set up gruesome deaths dealt by the giants only to leave the scene just before it happened. It is almost as if the people behind this film were confused with which audience they wanted to target. It is confusing.
I can’t honestly suggest anyone seeing this movie unless they want either a headache or a two hour nap. It is that bad. My luck they’ll make a sequel.
I give Jack the Giant Slayer 1 “big fat poodle haircut” out of 5.
by Jason Burleson
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