Susan Granger’s review of “Jack the Giant Slayer” (Warner Bros.)
With the success of “Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland,” “Mirror,
Mirror,” “Snow White and the Huntsmen,” even “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” live-action fairy tale fantasies have become a cinematic trend, mirrored on TV by “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm.”
In the medieval kingdom of Cloister, Jack (Nicholas Hoult), an earnest, leather-clad tenant farmer, meets up with an adventurous princess named Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). One rainy night, when she’s visiting Jack, the magic beans he acquired when he sold his only horse in the marketplace accidentally take root, unearthing a gnarly stalk that propels his house and the princess above the clouds into the floating realm of Gantua, inhabited by an ancient race of giants, led two-headed General Fallon (Bill Nighy). King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) immediately dispatches his gallant Guardians, including brave Elmont (Ewan McGregor), wise-cracking Wick (Ewan
Bremmer) and Isabelle’s conniving betrothed, duplicitous Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci). As they climb into the stratosphere, they’re joined by Jack – as the lumbering, cranky CGI “fee-fi-fo-fum” giants declare vengeance on mankind, sprouting lines like “We will taste the sweet nectar of revenge.”
Adapted from “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Jack the Giant Killer” and assembled by a series of screenwriters, including Christopher McQuarrie, Darren Lemke, Dan Studney and David Dobkin, and directed by Bryan Singer (“Valkyrie,” “Superman Returns” and the “X-Men” franchise), its making and marketing costs escalated to $300 million, including a bloated $195 million production budget. Intended for release last June, it’s sat on the shelf for eight months and, unlike fine wine, has not improved with age.
These legendary English fairytales have been embellished before – by Thomas Edison back in 1902, followed by The Three Stooges, Gene Kelly and Chuck Jones. And if Nicholas Hoult looks familiar, he recently starred in the zombie romantic comedy “Warm Bodies” and appears in Bryan Singer’s upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jack the Giant Slayer” sprouts a family-friendly, yet derivative, feeble 5. Rated PG-13, it’s too scary for very young children.