Jack and the Beanstalk
is one of the few English folktales Americans know by heart. A peasant boy sells his abusive guardian’s livestock for some beans, the beans get wet, a beanstalk grows, and off he goes to rescue a princess from a bread-crazed giant in the sky. Combining that G-rated Beanstalk
yarn with all the decapitations and anus-stabbing of the true Arthurian legend, Jack the Giant Slayer
is a grimy retelling of the children’s tale…in 3-D. The titular Jack, played by Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy
, Warm Bodies
), is an awkward farm boy who has grown up obsessed with this children’s tale, as has Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). Alas, the princess is unhappily betrothed to an ambitious nobleman (Stanley Tucci, in the thankless role of a cartoonish bad guy who does evil things to advance the plot). Given the history of this tale, it’s surprising it took until 2013 for a major studio to tackle the rapidly growing beanstalk with CGI. It’s a spectacle unto itself as the sinewy tendrils rip through the ground, out of the cabin and into the sky. In an equally impressive CGI feat, a giant picks his nose while wrapping Ewan McGregor in a pancake. The story isn’t particularly important, and the film can’t decide whether it wants to be serious or tongue-in-cheek. No, Jack the Giant Slayer
is focused on moving from one epic fantasy scene to another, whether it’s McGregor shouting, “Tally ho!” as he zip-lines across the beanstalk or a two-headed giant (Bill Nighy) bursting through a tiled floor. And to that end, it’s a great deal of fun.