“Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman, be he alive or be he dead, I’ll have his bones to grind my bread”
The fairy story is recounted by low born young Jack and his father, juxtaposed with a young princess Isabelle, enjoying the story in plusher surroundings with her mother.
According to legend, giants occupy a world between heaven and earth, whilst not playing well with humans. Ultimately they have been banished to their own land after being cowed by kindly Erik the King, with a handy crown made from a giant’s heart.
This is retelling or “re-imagining” of the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk” story, with actual giants, giant budgets and A-List director in the shape of Bryan Singer.
“Jack” (Nicholas Hoult) is the naive, rather disorganised orphan looked after by his long suffering uncle. They plough the fields they scatter and generally act like good peasants to the largely well liked King and his princess daughter.
Travelling to the castle one day to sell their horse and cart as times are hard, Jack assists a jostled princess and subsequently gets mixed up with a monk who buys his horse for some worthless beans, which must never, ever get wet.
Rather handily, seemingly minutes later Jack and Princess Isabelle happen to meet again back at Jacks run down abode. Before young love can truly blossom, the bean/H2O interface occurs, ensuring the only blossoming is in the green fingers department with the story moving vertically very quickly.
With the hapless princess stranded in giant land, the story swiftly moves into classical quest mode. Jack tagging along with the King’s guard Elmont (McGregor) with his trusty men and Roderick (Tucci) the arranged husband to be of the princess and all round pantomime bad egg, with trademark evil side kick “Wicke” (Bremner).
Up the beanstalk they all go and the CGI kicks into overdrive. The effects are impressive, the giants are almost photo realistic, clearly this is where much of the $195m budget was spent, yes an estimated $195 million.
This is sword and sorcery, good kings and derring do stuff and overall is far more fun than you imagine it might be. Hoult makes for a reasonable Jack, Isabelle (Tomlinson) is feisty and gets a few sequences where she can help rather than act as the standard damsel in distress.
The actors on occasion are hideously exposed, many of them looking like they just want their agents to get them out of there, as they act in ridiculous outfits and are saddled with wooden dialogue. Ian Macshane clearly paying a few bills with this leaden role as the fairy tale King with a daughter in distress. McGregor in particular is landed with a curious accent and one assumes he never thought his acting career would peak as a pig in a blanket roasting in a giant, giants oven.
Without doubt, this is fun in parts and just when you think the story is winding down, it bursts into life again for an extended climax that accounts for most of the budget in special effects spend.
In the extended denouement, the film dips into the “if you can see it we can blow it up”, school of film making. On occasion the sequences are similar to Game of Thrones without the gravitas, sex and graphic violence, although the body count is surprisingly high.
A curious mix of family friendly entertainment, almost pantomime characterisations and dialogue coupled with state of the art effects. The film did not perform well at the box office and watching it is not difficult to see why, certainly no disaster but perplexing as to how and why so much money has been ploughed into the film.
Overall, fun in parts but overall a misfire from an A-List director given too much money to realise a questionable dream project. Almost like an extended special effects show reel interspersed with a medieval movie of the week with quality actors slumming it whilst on their holiday break.
If you like your fairy tales writ large, with big budget thrills, plenty of CGI and live action, you can do worse then spend a couple of hours in Jacks company.
There is enjoyment to be had with plenty of eye candy on show but the story and acting remain firmly rooted to the ground.