Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: "Jack the Giant Slayer"

Just a short review here today; Joe Shearer is handling the main review over at The Film Yap, so head there to get his complete write-up.

There sure is a trend lately of turning children's fairy tales into splashy CGI action spectacles. Last summer's "Snow White and the Huntsman" was the testosterone-ized counterpart to "Mirror, Mirror." Earlier this year we had "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," a title that suggests how successful it would be. Now "Jack and the Giant Slayer."

All these movies have employed the same methodology: Take a well-known (and conveniently public domain) story, punch it up with huge action sequences, add scary boogums rendered with computer animation, and then slather it all with a dark-and-grimy look and mood.

"Jack" is easily the best of the lot, perhaps because it doesn't take it self quite so seriously. Yes, there are some profoundly silly moments, but the cast and crew seem to recognize and embrace them. Stanley Tucci as the titular villain is practically doing a stand-up routine in medieval garb.

Nicholas Hoult is by design the least interesting character in the picture as Jack, a pleasant, placid farmboy stand-in for the audience in this high-flying adventure. There's a beautiful princess -- of course! -- played by Eleanor Tomlinson who's in need of rescuing. Ewan McGregor has a nice supporting turn as the plucky captain of the guard, and Ian McShane is around to do that growly thing that McShane keeps getting called upon to do.

The giants are the real stars of the movie. Thirty feet tall, hairy, lumpy and barefoot, they stroll about their kingdom in the skies, having been banished there by a mythical human king who wielded a magic crown to command them. They spend their days eating sheep, picking their noses and issuing troubling sounds and smells from various parts of their bodies.

Basically, it's Big Bachelor Heaven.

Anyway, those pesky magic beans turn up, accidentally get dropped in some water and grow into a massive beanstalk. Unfortunately, the princess is trapped inside Jack's house at the time and gets carried into the sky. The beanstalk also provides a convenient mode of transport for the giants to come back down and wage destruction.

Bill Nighy does the voice of the giant general Fallon, who has a second head that is not quite as developed. The little one mimics the speech of the big one, but in slurred, halting words. It's almost like the giant king having his own jester permanently attached to him, whispering idiot nothings into his ear.

Director Bryan Singer stages clean, thrilling action scenes and encourages his cast to keep the mood light. And the CGI melee is decently gruesome in a PG-13 sort of way, with plenty of unfortunate extras getting squished underfoot by giants or become fodder for their craving for man-meat.

"Jack the Giant Slayer" is a big, goofy thrill ride that manages to metastasize its fairy tale legend without getting too full of itself.

3 stars out of four

1 comment:

  1. War between giants and humans is reignited when a farm boy accidentally drops the magic beans he's been given by a mysterious monk.