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"JACK THE GIANT SLAYER"
(2013) (Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Fantasy: A young farmer named Jack inadvertently reignites an ages-old war between humans and the giants of lore when he opens a portal between the two worlds.
PLOT:
In a fabled kingdom of long ago, Jack (NICHOLAS HOULT) is a young and struggling farmer who has a chance encounter with Princess Isabelle (ELEANOR TOMLINSON). Jack has recently come into possession of some magic beans that he doesn't quite believe in, until one falls through the cracks of his humble farmhouse, is rained upon, and sprouts an enormous beanstalk that stretches into the clouds.

Eager for adventure, Isabelle is carried up with the stalk and soon becomes the prisoner of a fabled race of human-eating giants led by General Fallon (a digital creation voiced by BILL NIGHY). At the order of Isabelle's father, King Brahmwell (IAN McSHANE), Jack must accompany a rescue party that consists of several soldiers; Isabelle's fiancée, Roderick (STANLEY TUCCI); the King's best warrior, Elmont (EWAN McGREGOR); and their assistants Wicke (EWEN BREMNER) and Crawe (EDDIE MARSAN).

Once up in the giants' kingdom in the clouds, though, Roderick reveals himself to be an evil schemer who uses a fabled crown to control the giants and bend them to his will. His plan is to rule over the two kingdoms and lay claim to all the riches in both. The heroic Jack, though, has fallen in love with Isabelle and will stop at nothing to free her and save the day.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
I am still not too sure about this trend of making sexier, more violent versions of classic fairy tales originally meant for children. Last year saw "Snow White and the Huntsman" turn the "Snow White" legend into a cross between "The Lord of the Rings" and "Twilight." Earlier this year, we got the R-rated "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" full of sexual imagery and violence that no kid should have gone to. Now we have the PG-13 "Jack the Giant Slayer" in which the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story is turned into a bruising war between humans and giants.

I have to say "Jack and the Giant Slayer" is the best of the three aforementioned films. It's not so much a great film as it is a great spectacle, with epic action sequences, intense special effects, and some really eye-popping 3-D. But it ain't for the little ones! Curiously, the film both begins and ends with charming, adorable tykes in their beds being told bedtime stories of fabled magic beans; towering beanstalks that seemingly reach all the way above the clouds; and massive, malevolent giants who survive on a steady diet of men, women, and children.

How much you enjoy this movie will depend largely on how many young kids are in the audience watching it with you. If you go to a matinee and are surrounded by a bunch of families with under-10s, it's not going to be a fun experience. The action in this is intense. The peril and danger is quite real and drawn-out. And the giants are quite scary for those who still sleep with nightlights. They're like a cross between Gollum and Nick Nolte's mug shot scary. Bad teeth, ashen skin, messed-up hair. And they're always screaming, stomping, knocking down houses, tossing around windmills, and, of course, eating people (and at least one sheep).

My advice? Don't go to a matinee or any other early show if you're an adult looking for some hard-edged fantasy adventure action. Go to a 9:30 screening. Go to a midnight show. The fewer young 'uns, the better.

The film will rule with boys and girls 10 years old and up. Nicholas Hoult of "X-Men: First Class" and "Warm Bodies" plays Jack, a common farmer who comes into possession of some magic beans. He is warned never to get any of the beans wet. But, of course, he doesn't listen. Soon, a giant beanstalk is ripping through the roof of his uncle's farmhouse and stretching all the way above the clouds to a land where giants really do exist … and they really want to climb down the beanstalk and annihilate the world of man.

Jack is smitten with the beautiful Princess Isabelle, who was in his farmhouse at the time said beanstalk began sprouting. Out of love, he volunteers to help the rescue mission that Isabelle's father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane), assembles that includes his best warrior Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and Isabelle's scheming fiancée Roderick (a scenery chewing Stanley Tucci).

The good news is all these performers seem to be having a ball in their respective roles. They all think they're making classic "Robin Hood" or something. Swords are pulled out with great flair. Mustaches are twirled. Damsels in distress are saved. It's all very old-school mixed with the latest special effects. But as with "Brave," they can make these things so intense and so visceral now, that our littlest moviegoers are either being left out or unnecessarily traumatized.

While Yours Truly at 41 thrilled to "Jack," I was keenly aware of the seven-year-old in the row behind me who was flipping out every time one of the giants snatched up a human and made him a snack. A lighter touch would have made for a better film. But there is certainly enough entertainment value here to warrant a look for all you amateur swordsmen, sorcerers, princesses, and seasonal Renaissance Festival employees. I give it a 6.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed February 26, 2013 / Posted March 1, 2013


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