Fi-fi-fo-fum, I had the mind to believe this movie would be dumb. The reimagining of classic fairy tales is becoming quite played with several theatrical releases in the past few years, as well as a few shows on the smaller screen. To be truthful, Jack the Giant Slayer stands out from the rest by merging talents all-around - from the great cast to the special effects and the written word to direction. Since his major debut with The Usual Suspects, director Bryan Singer has had varied success and failure, but he really stands out here by creating a fantastically BIG adventure about the story of Jack and handful of beans.
We meet 8-year old Jack reading the beanstalk fable long past his bedtime. It's in a storybook his mother left to him and he cherishes reading it - escaping to magical world beyond his life of farming with his father, where adventures involving giants seem out of reach. Miles away inside the castle walls, the young Princess Isabelle is engulfed in the same story, read to her by her mother. Isabelle has an adventurous spirit to her as well, but like Jack, fate has other plans for her – one day she will be a queen and all.
Fate brings the two together ten or so years later, after Jack has acquired a small about of beans from a monk that stole them from the king-to-be (it’s hard to explain). A rainstorm leaves Isabelle trapped outside the city so she stubbles upon Jack’s shack for a less wet atmosphere. However, water seeping through the cracks manages to ignite one of the beans, engulfing Jack’s home and sending it up to the place between heaven and earth where the giants rule. Among his problems at this moment, this biggest is that Jack is still on the ground and Isabelle is up in the house.
Noticing the giant beanstalk reaching into the heavens, the king sends some of his finest men – including that king-to-be, Roderick – up the stalk to rescue the princess. Finally an adventure for lay before him, Jack volunteers to aid in saving Isabelle. So the journey begins. And once atop, the risks are greater, men are captured, the gruesomely gorgeous giants are planning a feast of humans. A magical crown is thrown into the mix that gives the human bearing it power over the giants – and I assure this adds more to the story and fun than just merely being a plot device. And down below, with no signs of a successful mission, the king is faced with the decision wait for the rescue party or to ensure safety and cut down the stalk that could lead to giants roaming the earth.
Young Nicholas Hoult is Jack and he has definitely come a long way in his career to lead the film, which he does believable well. Other standouts include Stanley Tucci as Roderick, the charming villain, which he is much better suited for then the downright creepy one he played in The Lovely Bones. Ian McShane perfectly balances his role as both father and king to Isabelle – the next “Game of Thrones” knock-off should snatch him up, if not “Game of Thrones” itself (there’s a billion characters in there). And of course, as always, Ewan McGregor is wonderful as Elmont, the king’s head guard who is equally as charming as he is brave.
It’s unfortunate that recent films of this nature have tarnished the market for the genre, because I am afraid it will hurt the viewership (and the marketing didn’t help much, either). But Jack the Giant Slayer is a lot of fun that people of all ages can enjoy. An honest-to-god delight that I never saw coming. And even though the director hasn’t much success as of late, there is no doubting he is truly talented filmmaker that brought his A-game – perhaps if the studios want to make more movies like this, they should hire directors who have their crap together (I’m looking at you, Rupert Sanders). [A-]
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