×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jack the Giant Slayer

Fee-fi-fo-fum, this fairy-tale retread is pretty dumb.

With:
Jack - Nicholas Hoult
Isabelle - Eleanor Tomlinson
Roderick - Stanley Tucci
King Brahmwell - Ian McShane
Gen. Fallon - Bill Nighy
Elmont - Ewan McGregor

Fee-fi-fo-fum, this fairy-tale retread is pretty dumb. Feeding the recent appetite for revisionist screen fantasies (“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Once Upon a Time”), “Jack the Giant Slayer” feels, unsurprisingly, like an attempt to cash in on a trend, recycling storybook characters, situations and battle sequences to mechanical and wearyingly predictable effect. A disappointment coming from the usually more distinctive Bryan Singer, the Warners release will struggle to score the mammoth returns needed to recoup its not-inconsiderable budget, with an indifferent 3D conversion unlikely to offset f/x fatigue even among the youngish audience being targeted.

A rushed and unattractively animated prologue lays out the film’s underlying mythology, involving a race of giants who have spent centuries vowing revenge on the humans who banished them to Gantua, their kingdom in the clouds. But that’s little more than a fondly remembered children’s story for orphaned farmhand Jack (Nicholas Hoult), who wanders into town to sell a horse and comes away with a bag of mysterious beans.

As it happens, the town is called Cloister and the bean-seller is a fugitive monk, introducing an element of clerical intrigue into the story’s otherwise routine mashup of fabled figures. Also on hand are a Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), a wayward princess stifled by her palatial upbringing; Elmont (Ewan McGregor), a gallant knight tasked with protecting her; Roderick (Stanley Tucci), a conniving royal with designs on the kingdom; and other models of narrative non-invention crammed into the script by Darren Lemke, Dan Studney and Christopher McQuarrie (who was brought in by Singer for a rewrite).

Once Jack has accidentally spilled and watered the beans, they give rise to a writhing beanstalk (an impressive blend of plywood, foam, plaster, rubber and CGI) that shoots up into the heavens, unfortunately taking the poor princess with it. Thus begins a long climb-and-rescue expedition, during which Jack and Elmont must battle not only Roderick, but also that army of expectedly foul, oafish, man-eating giants. The leader of these plus-plus-sized predators is a two-headed monster played by, but in no way resembling, Bill Nighy — especially since the smaller, stupider head owes at least a partial authorial debt to Dr. Evil’s Mini-Me.

Tapped to replace D.J. Caruso as director in 2009, Singer seems to be helming on autopilot here; the overall effect is about as enchanting as a golf-cart tour of a Renaissance Faire. It’s never quite clear whether the material is being played straight, with a wink, or somewhere down the middle. The tepid love story between genial Jack and boring Isabelle leaves no more of an impression than the third act’s extended storming-the-castle climax, which feels too derivative of “The Lord of the Rings” and other medieval epics to generate more than passing interest.

Hoult has been busy of late, having appeared in the recent “Warm Bodies” and signed on to Singer’s upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” but while toplining a blockbuster fantasy reps a career marker of sorts, this particular one doesn’t give him much to do besides look blandly affable in a tunic. Elsewhere among the cast, Tucci’s villain does everything short of twirl his mustache; McGregor’s dashing knight seems to be restraining an impulse to supplant Jack as the hero of the story; and Ian McShane cuts a regal figure as Isabelle’s overbearing but lionhearted father.

Perhaps taking a cue from its titular monsters, the picture adopts a bigger-is-better visual approach apparent in Gavin Bocquet’s lavish production design and an overstocked f/x arsenal. The 3D adds nothing apart from the usual layer of murk, although the leering closeups of the giants’ faces, teeth and internal organs at least make one grateful the film isn’t in Smell-O-Vision.

Jack the Giant Slayer

Production: A Warner Bros. release of a New Line Cinema presentation in association with Legendary Pictures of an Original Film/Big Kid Pictures/Bad Hat Harry production. Produced by Neal H. Moritz, David Dobkin, Ori Marmur, Bryan Singer, Patrick McCormick. Executive producers, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Michael Disco, John Rickard. Co-producer, Jason Taylor. Directed by Bryan Singer. Screenplay, Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney; story, Lemke, David Dobkin.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, 3D), Newton Thomas Sigel; editors, John Ottman, Bob Ducsay; music, Ottman; production designer, Gavin Bocquet; supervising art director, Peter Russell; art directors, Peter James, Gary Tomkins, Rod McLean, Phil Harvey, Mark Harris, Sophie Hervieu; set decorator, Richard Roberts; costume designer, Joanna Johnston; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat/SDDS), Peter Lindsay; sound designer, Mark Mangini; re-recording mixers, Tim LeBlanc, Gregg Landaker, Rick Kline; special effects supervisor, Dominic Tuohy; special effects coordinator, Carmila Gittens; visual effects supervisor, Hoyt H. Yeatman; visual effects producer, Arthur Windus; visual effects, Digital Domain, MPC, Soho VFX, Tata Elxsi, Hatch FX, Gener8; stunt coordinator, Steve Dent; 3D stereographer, Chris Parks; associate producers, Ottman, Jonathan Stein; assistant director, Jamie Christopher; second unit camera, Mike Brewster; casting, Nina Gold, Roger Mussenden, Jeremy Rich. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, Feb. 20, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 113 MIN.

With: Jack - Nicholas Hoult
Isabelle - Eleanor Tomlinson
Roderick - Stanley Tucci
King Brahmwell - Ian McShane
Gen. Fallon - Bill Nighy
Elmont - Ewan McGregor

More Film

  • Let There Be Light Movie Marko

    Tough Competition in Spa Town Festival

    When the curtain rises June 28 on the 54th edition of the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival, there will be a conspicuous absence among the 12 titles selected for the main competition: Czech directors. It’s just the second time this decade that the host country has failed to field a single entry in competition, a [...]

  • Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp Join Edgar

    Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp Join Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” has rounded out its cast, with veteran actors Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp among the stars signing on for the latest movie from the “Baby Driver” director. Stamp can currently be seen in Netflix hit “Murder Mystery” with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Rigg’s recent roles include Olenna Tyrell [...]

  • Zhang Zhao LeEco film

    Zhang Zhao, Chief of Le Chuang (Formerly Le Vision Pictures), Resigns

    Zhang Zhao, the chairman and CEO of Le Chuang Entertainment, formerly known as Le Vision Pictures, has resigned for “personal reasons,” the firm said.    Zhang’s resignation was announced in a statement posted to the firm’s official social media account Monday, which thanked him for his service. “Le Chuang will carry on as before, using [...]

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Top Hollywood producer Joel Silver has exited his production company Silver Pictures, Variety has confirmed. “Joel Silver recently indicated that he intends to leave Silver Pictures and go out on his own,” Hal Sadoff, a former ICM Partners agent who joined Silver Pictures several years ago as CEO, said in a statement. “We are working [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content