Starring Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, and Ewan McGregor. Rated PG. Now playing
Man-eating giants, boulder-hurling slingshots, and battles over castle walls: that’s what little boys’ dreams are made of. And director Bryan Singer is all too aware of that in his digitally charged fairy tale.
Yes, there’s quite a body count—although no gore—in his outsized 3-D ogre fest, a film that’s much closer to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy than anything Disney. And when you think about it, the approach is pretty much in line with the old “Jack and the Beanstalk” folktale about the blood-sniffing giant anyway.
The film does tinker with the story a bit: Jack is now an impoverished orphan who lives with his uncle; the magic beans sprout up to an entire race of giants who live in the clouds; and there’s a beautiful princess who must be saved.
Nicholas Hoult’s Jack and Eleanor Tomlinson’s Brave-styled Isabelle are storybook bland, but a jaunty-coiffed Ewan McGregor livens things up as Elmont, the tongue-in-cheek fearless palace guard (“Tally-ho!”), while Stanley Tucci chews up the scenery as bucktoothed baddie Lord Roderick.
Still, it’s the giants, and the special effects, that amp up the gruesome fun here. The first encounter, where Jack hides underwater from an SUV-sized foot that’s clomping toward him, is genuinely terrifying. And just wait till McGregor comes to dinner—wrapped in pastry.
The digitally generated giants are lifelike, mangy brutes with stained teeth and neanderthal brows, especially the leader, Gen. Fallon (voiced by Bill Nighy), with his withered, whiny second head. The now requisite video-game–style joy rides come courtesy of the massive, snaking bean stalks.
The thrills are there; just don’t go in quite expecting the depth of Singer hits like The Usual Suspects and X-Men. But the giants’ gargantuan maces and burning-tree bombs? Huge, man.