I’ve always wondered about Jack and the Beanstalk. For one, the English folktale actually promotes stealing and self-interest over hard work. But what truly intrigues me is this: what became of the giant’s wife?
We all know about the farm boy who climbs a massive beanstalk and tricks a giant by running off with his many riches. But, let’s be honest, he couldn’t have achieved any of this without the help from the giant’s wife. She not only not reports Jack to her fee-fi-fo-fuming husband but even hides him inside an oven to spare his life. In place of gratitude, Jack leads the giant into being crushed to death.
Surely, she must have planned some grand revenge in her mind. Maybe she’s the mother of all those gnarly giants Jack encounters in Bryan Singer’s new movie. That would have been cool, right? But Jack the Giant Slayer has, curiously enough, no gals in its populated universe. So how does their kind reproduce? Magic beans, I presume.
In this 3D-sized mash-up of Beanstalk and another fairytale Jack the Giant Killer, Jack (Nicholas Hoult, earnest, endearing) is an honorable lad and his quest to scale the plaited ladder is borne out of necessity not nosiness.
A quick back-story establishes a legend about how the mighty King Erik conquered the ruthless giants by engineering a crown made from one of his burly victim’s heart. It’s a mighty and solitary tool that tames these furious creatures into submission.
Jack is rather fond of this story and grabs the opportunity to relive the same after an accidentally dropped bewitched bean grows into a stem so mammoth and creepy, it could’ve well sprouted out of Tim Burton’s imagination.
Having said that, Singer’s CGI/motion-capture brimming visuals are more Peter Jackson than Tim Burton. The giants look like a leaner, discounted version of the trolls we saw in The Hobbit recently. Only unlike Jackson who can weave a yarn out of a limerick if need be, Singer’s aspirations are rather hollow.
The man behind The Usual Suspects and X-Men franchise could have had a lot of fun with the material in hand. Like how Puss in Boots 2 did by lending the same plot a wicked twist.
Fairy Tales are a fascinating playground for creativity. They outline so much adventure and enchantment but because of their concise structure leave a lot unsaid and open for interpretation. Snow White and the Huntsman explored the potential of its premise to alluring effect.
Singer, though, sticks to a banal narrative of unlikely courage versus dumb greed around a sprightly princess (the bland as a broccoli Eleanor Tomlinson) looking for adventure (and, yawn, rescuing) and her elf-faced hero.
Jack the Giant Slayer gets lively once the big guys begin to pop on screen. Their run-ins with the blah Princess, her scrawny savior, a sly, self-seeking Lord Roderick (a virtually unrecognizable Stanley Tucci) and the valiant guard Elmont (Ewan McGregor in Obi-Van mode) in Giantland or Gantua bring about some of the campy humor one came expecting in after seeing its lowbrow promos.
Like rolling up Elmont in dough alongside some chubby pigs for pie or tricking the two-headed leader Fallon (Bill Nighy delivers effective menace in motion-capture) with, well, you can see it for yourself.
Well, it’s not a memorable fantasy. It doesn’t have exceptional visuals. The 3D is nowhere as immersive as that of Life or Pi, The Hobbit or Avatar. It doesn’t have half the wit or brutality found in the books. The writing is laughable (Gack! It’s Jack, you freak!). But, if viewed as a kiddie flick about defeating enormous, dangerous looking beings, Jack the Giant Slayer is like those ‘use and throw’ glasses, disposable though watchable.
This review was first published on rediff.com