Film review: Jack the Giant Slayer

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Jack played by Nicholas Hoult seek adventure in the 3D fantasy feature Jack and the Giant Killer. Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment Jack played by Nicholas Hoult seek adventure in the 3D fantasy feature Jack and the Giant Killer. Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Sleepy giant: New take on the beanstalk story is hindered by a lackluster plot

There’s a story about “Jack and the Beanstalk” in which Jack trades a cow for some magic beans. He gets the beans wet, they grow into a beanstalk that reaches into the sky, and Jack and a rabbit battle a giant with a speech impediment who wants to grind their bones to make bread.
There’s great dialogue. When Jack sells his cow, he says, “Now there goes a salesman. He trades me out of a perfectly good, grade-A homogenized Holstein cow, and for what? Three stupid beans. Jack, you’re a jerk.”
Later, the giant asks which of the two tiny creatures standing before him is Jack. “His name is Jack!” shouts Jack. He points at the rabbit and says, “Jack Rabbit! My name is Aloysius!”
It’s an animated Warner Bros. cartoon called “Beanstalk Bunny.” It was written by Michael Maltese, and stars Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd. It’s wonderful, funny, thrilling, and runs a brisk seven minutes. Jack the Giant Slayer runs about one hour and 55 minutes, is devoid of wit, romance, adventure or thrills, and doesn’t even have the benefit of a line such as, “Jack, you’re a jerk.”
It’s too bad, too. All Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) want is adventure. What they get is a sort of beginning of an adventure. Director Bryan Singer does again what has become his Achilles’ heel: He spends a bunch of time working on the look of the movie and not enough developing characters worth caring about. Remember Superman Returns? Super exciting compared to Jack the Giant Slayer.
We’re in trouble from the moment the productions stills come up at the start of the picture. Singer, lest we forget, directed The Usual Suspects, and it rocketed him to fame. His production company, Bad Hat Harry, uses the line-up scene from The Usual Suspects as its logo. The logo has been updated to appear at the start of Jack the Giant Slayer with giants. The movie never gets more clever than that.

So there’s Jack, who sells his uncle’s horse for the beans. (Ask yourself what becomes of the uncle; the movie doesn’t.) There’s Isabelle, a princess, who wants to travel and thrill-seek. He’s a commoner, she’s royalty. They meet up. You get the idea.
Then the beans get wet, there’s an evil guy who wants to marry Isabelle and rule her father’s kingdom, and there are giants. And yes, they’re gross, have rotten teeth, fart often (for comedy?), all in 3D, and they want to eat people. And of course the beanstalk is their way down to our level to eat people, because people are totally delicious.
Let’s put it this way: It takes a lot of work to make Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane boring, and Bryan Singer has managed to do it. Is there one moment’s doubt how this story will end? Is the foreshadowing during the movie’s opening scenes so heavy that the mystery is gone? No, and yes. Where’s a goofy rabbit and a smart aleck duck when you need them?

Jack the Giant Slayer/PG-13, 115 minutes/Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

 

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