The fairytale ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ gets a CGI/3D makeover with Jack the Giant Slayer. Along for the climb up the beanstalk is Bryan (Xmen and The Usual Suspects) Singer; writing contribution of Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie and a treasure trove of wonderful acting talent including Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane and Nicholas Hoult. Although you may expect this goose to lay golden eggs, the realty is more like giant latrine duty.
When an ancient order of monks discovers that the Princess’ (Eleanor Tomlinson) suitor Roderick (Tucci) has retrieved the last of the magic beans and a ‘giant controlling’ crown to wield against the kingdom, they send an emissary to take them back. Unfortunately he’s discovered and is forced to trade the beans with a farm boy, Jack (Hoult). During a chance visit by the Princess, Jack gets one of the beans wet, creating a connection to the giant world above.
The fundamental problem with Jack the Giant Slayer is that it takes itself far too seriously whilst simultaneously presenting a potential alternative route of ‘tongue in cheek’ whimsy.
The central struggle moves away from the fundamental story and mutates with the dramatic conceit of ‘Aladdin’. Hoult’s Jack has all the ‘diamond in the rough’ peasant qualities, yearning to rise above his station. Tomlinson’s Princess Isabelle is the resident Princess Jasmine, begrudgingly betrothed to Roderick aka Jafar. All of these performances feel sincere in the face of the weightless scripting from three conflicting screenwriters (McQuarrie, Darren Lemke and Dan Studney). And yet all the while McGregor’s Elmont, captain of the Queen’s guard, is camping up proceedings and swiftly taking the piss out of the film from the inside. There’s a self-effacing awareness that made this reviewer chuckle. This contrast makes for tonally confusing viewing.
Singer’s challenge as director, like Peter Jackson’s work on Lord of the Rings, is creating a believable world for his characters to occupy, and for the most part attempting to have the audience invest in Jack’s classist struggle. However, the wooden somber story is no match for the spectacle of giants laying waste to the kingdom. The computer generated giants by design were instantly sub-par. They’re at best video cut scene quality making the scenes that integrated real people feel like you were watching Hoult playing Xbox Kinect.
Jack and the Giant Slayer is yet another passionless money grab that doesn’t deserve the talent who just had the golden goose ‘decorate’ their resume.
and a half