Jack the Giant Slayer

Well, it’s safe to say we’re through Awards Season. On the first weekend after the Oscars we get the first mega-gargantuan movie of the year. With a budget pushing $200 million, Jack the Giant Slayer smashes its way into theaters with the sound and fury of a mid-summer thunderstorm.

The ferociously big and loud ode to one of the world’s oldest fairy tales has all the oomph of blockbusters like The Avengers and the Transformer films. Special effects abound, and what it lacks in intelligence or finesse it more than makes up for with grandeur and spectacle.

But Jack has one huge problem– its target audience is smaller than the tiny little sheep that the giant pops into his mouth like a Tic-Tac about half-way through the film. It’s way too violent for kids who’ve yet to hit their teenage years, but its subject matter is too childish for anyone over 16 or 17 (unless you’re an adult who’s comfortable hitting up his cubicle buddy for a “night watching that beanstalk movie”). Alas, it seems destined to come and go from theaters with lightning speed– despite how immensely entertaining it is.

We all know the story; Jack (Nicholas Hoult) gets a handful of magic beans in return for his horse at a market one day. His uncle is upset, throws the beans out, and by morning, there’s a stalk that shoots to the heavens. At the top is a gaggle of giants who Jack must defeat in order to rescue the beautiful princess (Eleanor Tomlinson).

Screenwriters Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After) and TV vet Dan Studney took a first crack at the script, and then director Bryan Singer (X-Men and X2) brought his frequent collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) in to finish the job. The result is a mish-mash of genres, but it actually works. There are elements of both The Lord of the Rings and The Princess Bride at play here, and by and large it’s clever, amusing, and wholly entertaining.

Hoult and Tomlinson are adorable together, and they’re ably backed by a downright excellent supporting cast, including Ewan McGregor as a hilarious (and noble) soldier, Ian McShane as the king, and Stanley Tucci as a nefarious royal advisor.

The visual effects, heightened by one of the better overall 3D experiences in a while, are off-the-charts, and the whiz-bang final battle (and nifty little coda) help make Jack a winning effort overall– a little (er, giant) teaser for the summer movie season, a few months early.

…if only there were an audience for it.

4/5 stars