“These beans have the power to change the world,” says monk on-the-run (Simon Lowe). “Whatever you do,” he warns Jack (Nicholas Hoult), “don’t get them wet.” When Jack does, the beans instantly create a mile-high stalk that carries his house and Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) into Gantua, rocky cloud-land where giants have been imprisoned. Able now to return to earth, the giants — led by two-headed general (Bill Nighy) — can at last take revenge on descendants of King Erik who, years ago, conquered and imprisoned the giants.
Will the giants destroy Brahmwell’s (Ian McShane) kingdom? What is duplicitous Roderick’s (Stanley Tucci) evil plan? Do Jack and Isabelle get together? For answers, see this mildly entertaining, so-so, fantasy adventure.
Young leads Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson are attractive, if bland, giant-slayer Jack and Princess Isabelle. He’s stalwart. She’s plucky and independent, resisting her father’s plan that she marry unappealing Roderick. Ian McShane is King Brahmwell; Stanley Tucci, Roderick. Excellent character actors both, they’re stuck in one-dimensional parts. “I have bigger plans,” says Tucci. If only. Ewan McGregor as Sir Elmont fares marginally better in an Errol Flynn-inspired role. McGregor looks right and has amazing hair.
Others in the cast include Eddie Marsan as Roderick’s nitwit henchman Crawe, Christopher Fairbank as Jack’s disapproving uncle, and Ralph Brown as foppish General Entin. Bill Nighy performs somewhere inside two-headed CGI giant General Fallon. Warwick Davis has a cameo as Old Hamm, an actor.
“Jack the Giant Slayer,” like recent Hollywood riffs on Hansel and Gretel and Snow White, is a re-imagined fairy tale. Directed by Bryan Singer, with uninspired script by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studke and David Dobkin, it looks like a handsomely illustrated storybook, thanks to excellent production design and special effects. But it’s not much fun. Stanley Tucci’s potentially engaging villain disappears halfway through the film, and Ewan McGregor’s Elmont struggles to entertain despite lines like “To find and return the princess is our mission. We must assume this is hostile territory.” CGI giants are, without exception, noisy, gross and alarmingly unattractive, passing gas and belching regularly. A blind cook is most disgusting. This is what happens when big guys live for years without the civilizing company of women.
Rated PG-13 for intense fantasy action and frightening images, “Jack” runs 114 minutes and is not for youngsters. It aims for, but does not achieve, the pleasures of “The Princess Bride” (1987). Watch that one instead.
“Jack the Giant Slayer”
Fights Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum,
CGI fantasy —
But just so-so — ho-hum.