By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fee, fi, fo, fum. I smell no blood — just an Englishman.
Jack’s his name, tenant farming is his game, and he apparently wants to climb that Hollywood beanstalk and join the likes of Alice, Snow White, and Hansel & Gretel in the community of movies adapted from fairy tales, fantasies, and folk tales.
Jack the Giant Slayer (earlier titled “Jack the Giant Killer”) is a reimagined fantasy adventure based on two familiar fairy tales: Jack and the Beanstalk, and Jack the Giant Killer.
Nicholas Hoult (fresh from his effective zombie lead in Warm Bodies) plays Jack, a modest and endearing young farmhand with magic beans in his possession who inadvertently opens a portal to the world of legendary giants, thus reviving an ancient war and unleashing the giants on Earth for the first time in centuries.
Then Jack must rescue the brave and adventurous princess, one Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), whom Jack loves and who has been kidnapped.
In support, Ian McShane plays the king concerned for, annoyed with, and protective of his daughter the princess; Ewan McGregor plays the swashbuckling leader of the king’s elite guard; Stanley Tucci is the king’s power-hungry adviser who’s betrothed to the princess and is up to no good; while Bill Nighy and John Kassir (apparently more than willing to get ahead of themselves) play the two-headed leader of the giants.
Working from a surprisingly humorless screenplay by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney that’s based on a story by Lemke and David Dobkin, director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Superman Returns, Valkyrie), no stranger to special effects, employs extensive CGI work and the motion capture process in an attempt to create an accessible but grown-up rendering of what are usually considered stories for children.
The film is nothing if not inventive, especially in the perspective-manipulating interaction between humans and giants.
Singer knows that, in this light entertainment, we anticipate the arrival of the giants similarly to the way we looked forward to the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and he paces his film to take full advantage of that.
But although the special effects are a collective marvel, the film pays the same price that any work this dependent on CGI work does: there’s a feeling of artificiality that permeates the proceedings even if it doesn’t squelch the fun factor.
This is, it should be mentioned, an action-oriented, PG-13-rated family attraction, but one with too much violent conflict for the young ‘uns.
So we’ll climb 2½ stars out of 4 for Jack the Giant Slayer, an unabashed spectacle in which the special effects provide most of the fee-fi-fo fun.