Much like the circle of life (albeit with far less pomp and circumstance) Hollywood tends to shove waves of repeating themed movies at us until they’ve milked the cash cow dry before moving on to the next fad. Superhero and fairytale films have been holding the box office hostage for awhile now. Some of these movies have been great, some good, some mediocre and some have sucked almost as much as Paris Hilton has (both on and off screen). Jack the Giant Slayer lands roughly in the middle of the pack. I was seduced by a fancy trailer filled with badass special effects, some of my favorite actors, and the promise of a fun-filled fantasy romp through an amped up childhood favorite. Like a moth drawn toward flame, I followed the shiny package all the way to a sadly disappointing end.
Jack the Giant Slayer is based upon the tales of Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer. The film follows Jack, a strapping young farmer, as he gets caught up in the intrigues of his Kingdom. There’s a wayward Princess sorely in need of LoJack, a dastardly Duke chock-full of nefarious intentions, a King whose wardrobe would make Liberace weep tears of envy and, oh yeah, a beanstalk that leads to a world of warlike giants just itching to start scarfing villagers like snausages. Jack is forced into fighting for his life, his kingdom, his Princess, and (if you’ve ever seen any fairytale ever) you can Nostradamus the rest from there. Fee, Fye, Fo, Fumm, here comes a movie that’s so-so fun.
Jack the Giant Slayer is an entertaining, if somewhat bland, take on an old fairytale. It’s been dusted off and re-vamped with a stellar cast, massively intricate special effects and a whole extra dimension. Some of the tricks they pull out of the bag work, and some fizzle faster than a Kardashian marriage. One of the best things going for this movie is the cast; Ewan McGregor is a knight in shining armor (both literally and figuratively); his humor, charm, heart and fantastic hair accounted for a large part of my continued interest in the film. Baby got back, front AND side-to-side. But I digress. Stanley Tucci was another standout, playing up the villain just a touch shy of full-on mustache-twirling glory. If you go into this movie expecting a relatively painless way to pass a couple hours, then you’ll be set. Jack the Giant Slayer is a decent effort that should appeal to most audiences. It entertains on the most superficial levels and requires very little brain power to digest. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as there have been worse fairytale adaptations in recent memory… cough Hansel and Gretel cough.
I don’t know what demographic Jack the Giant Slayer was aiming for, but whatever it was I think it missed the mark. This film was more confused than Goldilocks trying to lock in a decision on… anything. It was too scary for the youngest, too cheesy for the oldest, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out which age group is juuuuust right.
The movie also didn’t seem to know how to elevate its pedestrian script above predictable dialogue, bad puns, and a singular lack of subtlety. Jack the Giant Slayer hammers home it’s humor with literal pigs-in-blanket gags, and lines such as “He wouldn’t spill the beans” and “Let’s cut a few of them down to size”. The actors in the film played roles more than characters (and they weren’t helped by having to deliver such trite fuckwitery).
CGI, special effects, and 3D, when used appropriately, can elevate a film to epic levels of awesomeness. Jack the Giant Slayer did a creditable job with the special effects and, while the opening sequence of CGI wasn’t bad, it threw me for a loop in that it looked too much like video game graphics. I’d say someone got lazy and phoned that shit in, but with the kind of money they were throwing around on this film, I have to think it was on purpose (and it was distracting as hell). Which brings me to the 3D. If you go see this, do it in 2D because there’s little to no redeeming value in the extra dimension. The few occasions where it’s noticeable, it’s in a negative way. The 3D feels forced and awkward at times and takes you out of the viewing experience enough that it almost merits a beer on its own. Almost.
Jack the Giant Slayer had all the earmarks of a film with potential. The opening fairytale within a fairytale had my Inception antenna all excited and twitchy. And then things started to go terribly wrong. The princess was a bastard child of “poor little rich girl” and “damsel in distress”, never really living up to her kick-ass intentions. This bitch whines the entire movie about how she wants to be taken seriously and experience adventure then ends up a prisoner to be rescued and subsequently married off. Jack the Giant Slayer had aspirations toward combining adventure, romance, and comedy with old-fashioned fairytale fun (and while the Princess and Jack have a certain benign chemistry); everything falls into place so perfectly pat that it gets on my last fucking nerve.
Sometimes I feel like the goddamned Grim Reaper of Cinema, panning movies almost as often as Kenny gets killed off on South Park. I remember the bad movies; I remember the good, but I can’t seem to recall much at all from this film. And that says more about Jack the Giant Slayer than anything else.
Take a Drink: whenever someone says Jack’s name. Bonus Shot: when he says it himself.
Do a Shot: anytime a pun is eye-rollingly bad.
Take a Drink: whenever the CGI reminds you of a video game.
Take a Drink: for everyone/every time someone falls off of Candy Mountain (the Beanstalk/Gantua).
Do a Shot: whenever you hear “Fee”, “Fye”, “Fo” or “Fumm” in any context.
Shotgun a Beer: to make it through the longest (and most literal) game of Tug of War ever.