Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Eleanor Tomlinson, Eddie Marsden, Ewan Bremner
Written by: Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and David Dobkin
Running Time: 114 mins
Release date: 22nd March 2013
Hollywood’s love for all things fairy tale continues with something quite different. instead of trying for a hybrid of horror and fantasy (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hazels) or non-hilarious panto style (Mirror, Mirror), director Bryan Singer has taken the brave decision to just tell a story as we kind of know it. Unheard of! What he has produced is a big, bold, epic adventure that is loads of fun.
Jack is a simple boy working for his uncle on a farm, who was told of a land between heaven and earth where giant live and they can only be controlled by a special crown. Sent to sell his uncle’s horse and cart, Jack meets up with a terrified monk who offers Jack great wealth for his horse but gives him some beans and told not to get them wet. Jack returns home to an irate uncle and knocks the beans on the floor, losing one under the house. During a rain storm, Jack is visited by the town Princess Isabelle, escaping from being forced to marry the suspicious Roderick. However, while the couple talk, water hits the missing bean and soon, Isabelle and the house are caught up in an enormous beanstalk, sending them up into the sky.
The King arrives and orders a troop to climb the beanstalk to save his daughter. Led by the dashing Elmot, Jack volunteers and along with Roderick they start their ascent. It soon becomes apparent that Roderick has other plans and once they arrive at the top, those plans include the army of giants that live there.
Singer, who is more known for directing superhero films like X-Men and Superman Returns, has taken the basis of the classic Jack and the Beanstalk tale and given it a slight dusting down, making it look more like a mix of The Princess Bride and Lord Of The Rings. Without adding modern twists or having his cast act out a pantomime, Singer, a very decent director who knows a thing or two about pace, tension building and producing entertaining pieces of work, has done just that, given us a spectacle with an array of CGI giants and a final 30 minutes that are reminiscent of the epic cinema or old.
He also made the good decision of having a mainly British cast to play his main characters. Nicholas Hoult is perfectly suited as Jack, with his boyish good looks and naive charm, he pitches his reluctant hero just right for this kind of film. While Eleanor Tomlinson is very easy on the eye and makes for a feisty Princess Isabelle, the connection between her and Hoult is a little lacking. Ewan McGregor, with hilarious hair-do and beard combo, is fine as the dashing leader of the army, while Stanley Tucci has obviously been longing to play Count Tyrone Rugen, the character created by Christopher Guest in The Princess Bride, as he dons the same goaty and some manner as the screen’s baddie. It’s fun but you do long for the original.
On the downside, it takes a long time to get going with an extended pre-credit sequence that carries far too much unnecessary back story and the pace does dip in the middle. It also doesn’t give always reliable Eddie Marsden enough screen time and I did find myself wanting a little more humour as the whole thing does take itself a little too seriously. These are slight niggles in a film that is exciting, is fun and is spectacular. The effects are good, even though the giants do look too much like CGI creations but you can forgive it for the enormous scale of the finale.
It’s a long way from reaching the heady heights of The Princess Bride and even Stardust but as a piece of entertainment, it does the job well. It might be a little too violent for the very young, especially the scene in a giant’s kitchen but if you are looking for something to lose yourself in this Easter, you could do a lot worse than check this omne out.