Another classic put to the sword
Jack the Giant Slayer (3D)
Once upon a time children’s bedtime stories were simple and straightforward. A young hero or heroine would be established, an obstacle would be presented, they would overcome it and live happily ever after. The child listening to it would either learn a little life lesson or fall asleep, a win-win for mum and dad.
I pity the kids who may miss out on the classic eight to 12-page versions of Snow White, Hansel & Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, and instead are confronted with adaptations tied to the bloated, noisy, ‘‘ pimp my fairytale’’ movies presently the muse of Hollywood studios bereft of fresh ideas.
In the blah tradition of Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, comes an elaborate, special-effects driven retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. You know, the one where the farmer boy is duped out of a cow for magic beans and ends up stealing cool stuff from a giant’s castle.
Maybe I was wrong about those life lessons . . .
Jack the Giant Slayer begins with a ‘‘fee-fi-fo-fum’’, whispered by both a poor farmer and a queen to their respective children at bedtime, Jack the pauper and Isabelle the princess, as they recount a folk tale about monks who made magic beans to grow a vine intended as a gateway to the heavens, only to reach a savage land instead.
Down comes an army of giants keen to lunch on Englishmen and grind their bones for bread, but a magic crown is forged that protects the kingdom. The giants are sent packing and the beanstalk is cut down. But is the tale just the stuff of legend Jack and Isabelle want to believe?
It is an intriguing fleshing-out of the fairytale but I felt exhausted by the back-story before Jack and Isabelle reappeared as young adults (played by Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson).
I guess we have Sir Peter to blame for epic prologues featuring in every wannabe blockbuster.
The script gets forward propulsion when Isabelle’s fiendish fiance (Stanley Tucci) is revealed to have found the magic crown and beans and intends to use them for his own terrible ambitions. But the beans find their way into Jack’s hands – no prizes for guessing what happens next.
Kudos to director Bryan Singer ( X-Men, The Usual Suspects) for using a largely English cast, ensuring a quaint charm, and the playful tone is a welcome relief from the po-faced angst that has drowned other recent storybook ‘‘reimaginings’’. But The Princess Bride it ain’t. Hoult and Tomlinson struggle for chemistry and charisma, and the story loses its sense of adventure halfway through.
The best part of the movie is when Jack and gallant knight Elmont (a peppy Ewan McGregor) try to rescue Isabelle from the land of giants. A kitchen scene where Elmont is breaded and baked is particularly amusing.
But the plotting is hellbent on ensuring a climactic castle seige pitting man against monster – like every other fantasy movie made post- The Lord of the Rings.
Perhaps the battle would have been more engaging had the giants been given more than one brain cell and designed to look less like PlayStation nasties.
Dinner time: A giant plays with his food – Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) – in the patchy beanstalk fantasy Jack the Giant Slayer.