- Rated PG-13
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
ryan Singer’s name carries quite a bit of clout in Hollywood, this despite the fact that the man’s last good movie turns 10 years old this summer (“X2: X-Men United”). If an actor had that long of a bad streak, they’d be doing dinner theater by now (or, more likely in this day and age, porn). Singer, meanwhile, gets to direct the next “X-Men” movie. Clearly, this man has photos of someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
“Jack the Giant Slayer,” though, might be the movie that takes Singer down a peg, photos be damned. It’s less of a fairy tale than it is neutrally delivered exposition. There are few jokes and only slightly more action, but it’s chock full of ‘ewww’ moments like giants picking their noses. In 3D. Yikes.
The story takes place shortly before and shortly after one of the plagues that decimated England in the medieval era, as young farm boy Jack and young princess Isabel listen (separately) to the legend of giants who lived in the sky, but one day descended to Earth courtesy of a magic beanstalk, and fed upon the humans. Besieged with giants and possessing little in the way of weapons to stop them, King Erik had a crown forged with dark magic which allowed him to rule the giants, whereupon he banished them to their homeland and cut down the beanstalk.
Fast forward 10 years, and the now-parentless Jack (Nicholas Hoult) must sell his beloved horse for money, but the only one who is interested in his horse is a monk, who offers to give Jack a satchel of beans that he in fact stole from the royal family, telling Jack that if he brings the beans to the abbey, they will give him money. Jack’s uncle is furious that Jack allowed himself to be swindled like this, but the beans turn out to be the ones from the legend Jack heard as a boy, and once they get wet from a rainstorm, they send his house high into the sky. Unfortunately, Princess Isabel (Eleanor Tomlinson), who came upon Jack’s house after losing her way while riding on horseback, was still trapped inside the house as it made its ascent. The King sends his best men, as well as Isabel’s betrothed Roderick (Stanley Tucci) and Jack, up the stalk to find her.
That is one ridiculously large plot summary for a movie without much of a story. Lack of story is the least of the movie’s problems, though. Of far greater concern are the movie’s set pieces and effects, which don’t hold a candle to Peter Jackson’s most recent “Hobbit” movie, and the movie’s tone, which is, in a word, dull. The script is hopelessly lacking in some kind of weight, either light or dark. Instead, the story plays it right down the middle, and it’s a crashing bore. Also of note: the giants speak English, and have English accents. Of course they do.
Nicholas Hoult has a very likable onscreen presence, but he has nothing to work with here. Ewan McGregor, as the leader of the king’s guard, has even less, and is even forced to say “I’ve got a very bad feeling about this,” a not-so-subtle nod to McGregor’s stint as Obi Wan Kenobi. Director Bryan Singer thought the inclusion of that line was genius. In the context of the movie, though, it seems more desperate than anything, as if he was looking for something, anything, to prop up this movie. Stanley Tucci tries to inject some life into the movie as the slippery Roderick, but the story takes his legs out from under him before he has the chance to do anything special.
The March 1 issue of Entertainment Weekly contained an article about “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and the uphill climb the movie is facing at the box office. On the surface, the piece may appear to be a legitimate analysis of what the movie can reasonably expect to earn, but when you take into account the fact that both the movie and the magazine are owned by the same company, it’s clear that the article is a publicity stunt in disguise (there is no way they write this piece about a movie from another studio). Simply put, even Time Warner knows that “Jack the Giant Slayer” is a dud, and now so do you.