An­other clas­sic put to the sword

Jack the Gi­ant Slayer (3D)

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

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.

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