Fee…Fi…Foe…Fum…I detect an unfavorable critique from the blood of a disenchanted American movie critic! What do you know…some giants are rather perceptive after all, huh? Well, perception is not necessarily on the radar for director Bryan Singer’s bloated bedtime blockbuster ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’, a colourful clunker set to the fairy tale flourishes of arbitrary CGI embellishment and lukewarm performances.
No doubt that there have been notable hits and misses when adapting a children’s classic story to the big screen with the imaginative intentions of tapping into the pulsating pulse of family entertainment. Singer (‘The Unusual Suspects’) and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Darren Lemke and Dan Studney deliver this fetid fantasy with all the urgency of slapping together a tuna fish sandwich at the local deli. There is not anything distinctive, captivating or cautionary about ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ that could match the manner in which your grandmother humbly told you the familiar tale as she rocked you to sleep at nighttime.
In a nutshell, ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ is a flat and flimsy retelling of a farmboy Jack (Nicholas Hoult) living in a broken-down barn with his uncle. Jack is suddenly driven into his adventures when he is accidentally saddled with magical beans. Soon, the acquired beans develop into a massive beanstalk that shoots up straight into the heavens above.
As Jack climbs the beanstalk to investigate this magical circumstance, he notices the appearance of a pretty young princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). So the quest begins to help save Princess Isabelle from the persistent and pesky giants that also look to make mincemeat out of the medieval English town folks below. The Goliath tormentors would stop it at nothing to wage war against their hapless human counterparts.
Feeling an obligation to combat the belligerent behemoths, Jack joins forces with charismatic knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor, ‘The Impossible’) in an effort to restore order. On hand to add additional treachery is the king’s untrustworthy and opportunistic royal adviser Roderick (Stanley Tucci).
Feeble-minded and conventional, ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ drags along as much as a broken muffler on your jalopy. The special effects are somewhat noteworthy but cannot compensate for a sagging story, cardboard cast and generic giants no more threatening than your aging bulldog Butch waiting for his six o’clock feeding. Only the beanstalk, with its vibrant scope as a spectacle servicing as the action piece for the film’s mawkish activities, comes off as multi-layered and moving.
As the heroic Jack, Hoult seems rather forgettable as his impishness does not register at all. When he is paired romantically with Tomlinson’s Princess Isabelle, the tandem have all the combustible spark of a pharmaceutical sleeping pill. McGregor’s valiant knight Elmont fares a little bit better but that is not saying much given the staid material in which he is asked to be noble and dynamic. Tucci seizes the moment as the resident scoundrel Roderick, whose scruffy look and demeanor is insidiously delicious.
It is so baffling why Singer, a noted moviemaker with an adventurous eye for cinematic curiosity, was drawn to such an uneventful and spotty computerized kiddie caper such as ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’. This swashbuckling escapist eggroll of a movie is all dismissive chatter and static without any genuine substance of surrealism for the tyke’s treasured tale as we remember it from childhood.
As a so-called larger-than-life puffy fantasy, poor Jack does not slay giants so much as he tackles the elements of midget-sized mediocrity.
Jack The Giant Slayer (2013) Warner Bros.
1 hr. 53 mins.
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan, Bill Nighy, John Kassir and Ian McShane
Directed by: Bryan Singer
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy/Action & Adventure
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)