What did I learn this week at the movies? That Fee, Fye, Foe, and Fumm are actually the names of certain giants. That monks who look like friends of Friar Tuck probably safeguard a dark magic to protect the kingdom. Gosh, I was even reminded that princesses often fall for polite but chivalrous farm boys. Of course, whether Jack the Giant Slayer is a documentary could probably be argued (or that it was shot in real time).
But more importantly, in the movie there’s a Warwick Davis sighting! Sure, it’s only for a few minutes but what a glorious few minutes they are. Don’t forget to plan your Leprechaunathons soon, St. Paddy’s Day is coming up quick. Ahhh … What? Oh, yeah right. The review.
So anyway, the story here is of course based on the fairy tale and most of the key elements are represented. Here, the adventurous lad named Jack (what a coincidence) who sells a horse for magic beans is played by Nicholas Hoult (who can also be seen in theaters right now as an adorable zombie in the underrated and enjoyable Warm Bodies). Jack meets a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), travels up the beanstalk, and becomes a key player in the war between humans and giants.
Aside from some early animation which looked rather unfinished and a touch awful actually, the movie does a nice job of balancing the child-friendly aesthetic one thinks of for kids’ tales and the more realistic brutality one would expect from giants who think homo sapiens is quite a delicious delicacy. The 3D is completely useless however, and while I’ll chalk some of that up to the possibility of the screening itself being slightly out-of-focus, I saw enough elements actually break the plane of the movie screen to realize that the filmmakers weren’t trying all that often.
The selling point to the movie is its cast. Hoult does a nice job balancing the naïve farm boy shtick with the brave hero ideal. Tomlinson is the right mix of beauty, curiosity, and compassion. Ian McShane makes for a wonderful and imposing King. Stanley Tucci always adds a little extra panache, especially when it comes to villains. Ewan McGregor gives his heroic knight a nice amount of flair. Bill Nighy was such a perfect choice for the voice of the giant General and Eddie Marsan and Ewen Bremner give two characters that would normally be quite stock actual screen presence and help make the movie feel a bit more like a true ensemble. (And did I mention WARWICK DAVIS! I did? Oh yeah. But still!)
While the nearly two-hour runtime should have been trimmed a bit, Jack the Giant Slayer delivers where it should for the most part and the strength of the actors carried the movie through some of the leaner scenes. You could see it on the big screen too if you like, but just make sure to choose a 2D showing and buy yourself something sugary with the savings instead. Only good 3D should be rewarded … and this isn’t good 3D. Fans of the fantasy action genre will be satisfied though and this will even make for a pleasant diversion on a lazy afternoon when it eventually hits the small screen.
Jack the Giant Slayer hits theaters on March 1, 2013 and is rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.