The film’s fatal mistake? Perhaps it was director Bryan Singer embracing the 19th-century nature of the story as tightly as he did Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie for his own Superman Returns. These days, to satisfy family audiences, it’s evidently not enough to revive an old-fashioned tale; you have to hip it up with nods to contemporary influences, even if the setting stays put.
Give Singer credit for trying, although one could argue he tries too hard — an argument backed up by a running time too long by a half-hour. He could have just left it at Jack (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies), the beanstalk and a giant. Instead, he gives viewers multiple giants, one of which sports an extra head, while others burp and fart.
We also get a beautiful princess-in-peril (Eleanor Tomlinson, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) who’s also a sister doing it for herself, golden breast-plated armor and all; an air of needless extravagance; Stanley Tucci hamming it up as he did in The Hunger Games; Ewan McGregor (Haywire) enjoying a role as swashbuckler; and excellent computer-generated effects that overwhelm everything else, as is their wont.
But worst of all, it just feels endless. As a result, any goodwill you may have for Jack the Giant Slayer slowly but surely leaks as it plods along. Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray includes a brief gag reel, eight minutes of deleted scenes, and an option to watch the colorful adventure with the genial Hoult as your behind-the-scenes guide. My option, in hindsight, would be to rewatch Abbott & Costello‘s comedy-musical take on Jack and the Beanstalk of 1952. It proves one need not spend hundreds of millions to turn such a simple story into big fun. —Rod Lott
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