Nonstop Movies: ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’

I’ve never been a fan of movies like “The Lord of the Rings,” “Clash of the Titans” and “Harry Potter,” which are based on fantasy with lots of CGI. So when I learned of “Jack the Giant Slayer,” I imagined it would be yet another lifeless entry of fairy tales made into films such as “Alice in Wonderland” and last year’s two “Snow White” films. But with the creative team from “The Usual Suspects,” “Jack the Giant Slayer” turns out to be an enjoyable ride with thrilling action sequences along the way.

Director Brian Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie wouldn’t seem to be top choices to helm a movie based on a fairy tale, but they’re surprisingly effective in presenting their take on this classic story. Their modern version of “Jack and the Beanstalk” introduces several new characters, a love story and a battle for power over the kingdom, and while these elements are certainly clichéd, they work well in creating the essence of the film.

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is still a poor farm boy swindled into trading his horse for a sack of beans, but now he has a crush, the beautiful Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). Like many fairy tale princesses, she yearns for adventure away from her boring, regal lifestyle and runs away from her castle. She meets Jack and soon a giant beanstalk grows from one his beans, creating a path from their kingdom to the land of giants in the sky. Meanwhile, Princess Isabelle’s groom-to-be Roderick (Stanley Tucci) had actually been planning all along to bring the giants down to help him take over the kingdom.

Hoult is a charismatic lead and is allowed to express more here than when he played a zombie in last month’s also surprisingly good “Warm Bodies.” Tomlinson makes for a cute and spunky damsel in distress, and Tucci does what he does so well in playing the villain. Even Ewan McGregor joins in on the fun playing Elmont, the King’s head guardsman. Sure, the characters aren’t the least bit original, but this is a fairy tale. As for the CGI giants, they are both menacing and comedic. There’s a scene where a giant in the kitchen does some things with his body parts that will definitely get the kids to giggle, but overall, they blend into the action well and are serviceable villains.

Speaking of the action, there are some exciting sequences that highlight the second half of the film. McGregor and Tucci face off against each other in a decent man-to-man battle, and when the giants are finally released onto the kingdom below, they mayhem they cause is quite enjoyable and fun.

With proven talent behind the camera and an overall fun tone, “Jack the Giant Slayer” is definitely worth a watch.

“Jack the Giant Slayer,” 114 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.