The timeless children’s tale of Jack and the Beanstalk gets a high-tech update in the new film Jack the Giant Slayer. Directed by Bryan Singer, the new version mixes in special effects with romance, action, and humor to provide a refreshing update of a fairytale that should appeal to adults and children alike. Nicholas Hoult stars as Jack, a simple farmer who’s raised by his uncle after the passing of his father. As a boy, Jack enjoyed the tales of long ago, especially those of the time when giants came down from the sky and attacked the earth before being thwarted by King Eric and his magical crown.
One day while in town to sell a cart and horse and earn much-needed funds for his uncle, Jack has a chance encounter with Princess Isabelle, (Eleanor Tomlinson), which leaves Jack’s starstruck. Unbeknownst to Jack and Isabelle, there is a dastardly plot afoot as the evil Count Roderick (Stanley Tucci), plots to rule the land once he has married Isabelle. The fact that the Princess has no interest in marrying Roderick is of little interest to the King (Ian McShane), as he is anxious to provide continuity for his kingdom following the loss of his wife. While Isabelle pleads her case with her father, Jack ends up in possession of beans which, he’s told, are magical.
Upon seeing what Jack has returned with, his uncle storms off into the night hoping to sell some of Jack’s remaining family possessions in order to make the money Jack had failed to acquire. While alone, Jack again encounters the Princess, who has decided to run away rather than be forced into a marriage she does not want. As if on cue, one of the magic beans that Jack had obtained earlier becomes wet in the rain storm and whisks the cottage and Princess into the heavens high above. The King and his men send a group of guards, under the leadership of Elmont (Ewan McGregor), to ascend the beanstalk and return the Princess. Jack and Roderick also accompany the soldiers, each with their own agenda.
Upon scaling the massive stalk, the group soon discovers that they are in the realm of giants long thought to be the stuff of legends. Complications arise which forces Jack to take command of the very perilous situation and soon finds himself battling not just to save the Princess but also for the very survival of the kingdom and surrounding world.
The film has some nice moments and while the CGI stuff may be a bit childish to some, it is important to remember that this is a fairytale and as such you are not going to see a lot of character depth and intricate plot twists. Instead, the film relies on a very likable cast made up of matinée quality villains and bad guys and some very nice visual effects to convey its simple but effective formula. Hoult follows up his leading role in “Warm Bodies” effectively and with several high-profile projects in the near future, seems poised to be a leading man to keep an eye on. The supporting cast does a very good job, especially McGregor and McShane who bring a gleeful energy to their roles as does Tucci as a villain who has everything short of the twirling mustache and black hat.
The 3-D offered some very good moments in the film and really enhanced some of the battle scenes in the film. Parents with younger children may want to note that there are some elements that may be frightening to very young children but for the most part this is a kid’s film. That being said, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the movie. It’s certainly better than I expected and was, in my opinion, the best live-action retelling of fairytale in recent memory. We did get a chance to review the film in the IMAX format which certainly allowed for the impressive visuals of the film to have an even greater impact. If you’ve ever been a fan of the story then you definitely will want to take a trip up the beanstalk for this nostalgic, yet highly enjoyable, interpretation of the beloved classic.
3.5 stars out of 5