Jack the Giant Slayer (PG-13, Warner Bros.)

film jack-giant_smThis version of “Jack and the Beanstalk” mixes court intrigue, adventure, comedy, and romance that surprises exactly when it needs to.

 

 

film jack-giant

It was so easy to have a bad day in ancient times. Jack (Nicholas Hoult) gets sent into town by his uncle to sell their horse and cart so they can patch up their roof. That sounds relatively simple, but Jack ends up with the cart being stolen and unwillingly trading the horse for a handful of beans so that a thieving monk can escape the king’s men.

Things get even more complicated for him when the king’s daughter, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), runs away from the palace and takes refuge in Jack’s home. Unfortunately for them both, one of those beans fell under the house earlier in the day. All it takes is one rain storm to make it sprout a giant stalk through Jack’s place, which propels the house, and Isabelle with it, to seemingly unreachable heights.

Jack the Giant Slayer is a relatively nice update to the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story we all know from childhood. This version mixes court intrigue, adventure, comedy, and romance in an interesting enough package that surprises exactly when it needs to.

When the king and a small contingent of his army follow Isabelle’s trail to the stalk, Jack, feeling it’s his fault she’s in danger, climbs with Elmont (Ewan McGregor), Roderick (Stanley Tucci), and a few of the king’s other men to retrieve her. Of course, it isn’t long before they realize that humanity has been living below an entire race of mean, land-in-the-sky, man-eating giants, and that getting Isabelle back is going to take quite a lot of doing.

If you’re willing to believe the upper reaches of our atmosphere can support a land of giants, then you likely won’t have much problem with the origin for everyone’s favorite improbably magic beans. That, and how the beans were allowed to survive for so long might not make much sense, but I am glad the writer’s tried to do something interesting with what is already a pretty fantastical idea.

The look of the giants themselves is very slightly cartoonish. I don’t generally like to be reminded of the CGI at work when I’m watching a movie, but this is one case where it worked in the film’s favor. There’s no way for me to know if the filmmakers did this on purpose, but it makes sense that, if most people were suddenly confronted with something they had no reason to figure was a reality, whatever that thing was would look a bit unreal to them. Even if said thing were rolling them in dough before putting them into a massive oven.

Hoult feels like the right choice to take on the role of Jack. He doesn’t exactly have what I’d call undeniable charisma on screen (not yet, anyway), but you don’t need that for this kind of role. Jack is a classic movie everyman: He’s a basic, hardworking guy who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but bravely steps up to the challenges put before him. Projecting an uncomplicated likeability could easily become Hoult’s bread and butter for as long as he wants. | Adrienne Jones

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