Jack the Giant Slayer
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, digital download and on demand
Director Bryan Singer’s reinvention of “Jack and the Beanstalk” was a disappointment at the box office, a fact that probably has more to do with the concept than the execution. Although a fairy tale, the movie is presented as a big-budget, special-effects blockbuster that plays as much like “Clash of the Titans” as a Disney cartoon. That places a lot of limitations on audience.
Teens and young adults don’t typically line up for fairy tales, yet “Jack” has a dark tone that may concern parents of younger children. The movie is rated PG-13, mostly for fantasy violence, and it contains moments that will leave squeamish youngsters frightened. That sets the realistic target audience at ages 8 to 14. Chances are, kids in that range will like the project. Trouble is, there aren’t that many of them.
Over the decades, there have been numerous versions of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and the related fable “Jack the Giant Killer,” and Singer’s story borrows from the predecessors while forging new ground. One problem with the traditional fairy tale is that Jack is often portrayed as a stupid and selfish young man who lucks into an encounter with a giant, then steals from him. The Jack in Singer’s movie is more likable and heroic.
As portrayed by Nicholas Hoult, Jack is a hard-working youth who ends up with a handful of magic beans through no fault of his own. When one of them sprouts, sending a massive beanstalk into the clouds, it takes his house and a visiting princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) along for the ride. Jack then climbs the stalk in the company of one of the king’s advisors (Stanley Tucci) and a group of knights led by a dashing young soldier named Elmont (Ewan McGregor). The group’s goal is not treasure, but the recovery of the princess. The noble quest makes the adventurers more likable than if they were simple thieves. It also makes it easy to root for them when they discover a hostile group of giants.
“Jack” isn’t the smartest movie released this year, and it’s not the most inventive either. It’s based on a fairy tale that most children know by heart, and the insertion of the princess creates additional predictability in the form of a love story.
What “Jack” has going for it is a winning spirit of adventure and very good special effects. Hoult is likable in the lead role, Tomlinson is fetching as the princess and McGregor and Tucci make the project even better… especially for viewers of the proper age.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel.