We may sigh heavily at the thought of yet another fairy tale blockbuster, but the filmmakers and cast here demand a bit more attention. And sure enough, it's refreshingly smarter and funnier than we expect. There are still the problems of unnecessary 3D and far too many digital characters, but the restless pace and the witty performances make it a lot of fun to watch.
It's Jack and the Beanstalk with added action mayhem, as orphaned farmboy Jack (Hoult) sells his horse for a bag of supposedly magic beans. When one inadvertently gets wet, a massive beanstalk manages to propel Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson) into the realm of the giants, reawakening a legend that had died off centuries ago. So the King (McShane) enlists Jack to join a rescue team of guards (including McGregor, Marsan and Bremner) and Isabelle's intended, the shifty Roderick (Tucci). Up above the clouds, they encounter two-headed giant Fallon (Nighy) and his nasty horde. But rescuing Isabelle is only the first problem they face.
The freewheeling plot zips along without pausing for breath, encompassing massive set pieces and more gritty battles as well as small moments of drama and romance. Meanwhile, Jack and Isabelle cast lusty glances at each other, even when they're in physical peril. Director Singer brings out the energy of the characters to keep us involved, playing on the vertiginous angles of the settings while playfully deploying fairy tale imagery in the sets, costumes and landscapes. it's understandably why he decided to digitally create the giants rather than have actors play them, but this leaves a hole where the monsters should be. Aside from Nighy's more obviously performance-captured face, all of them look like dead-eyed cartoons, which essentially turns the film into a medieval Transformers movie.
Even so, the actors play their characters with relish. Tucci gets the best role by far, a smirking baddie who evokes The Princess Bride with Roderick's duplicitous sarcasm and irony. By contrast, Hoult and Tomlinson are rather bland, but then they are the romantic heroes, so we don't expect much more. And they're engaging enough that we still cheer for them. Meanwhile, McShane and McGregor manage to add sparky edges to their nice-guy characters. So even if the climactic battle sequence seems to get stuck in a massive struggle to open a draw bridge, there are moments of humour and suspense along the way. And the witty epilogue sends us out with a smile.
Run time: 114 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st March 2013
Box Office USA: $65.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $197.7M
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Production compaines: Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, Legendary Pictures, Original Film, Big Kid Pictures, Bad Hat Harry Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 100 Rotten: 93
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Nicholas Hoult as Jack, Eleanor Tomlinson as Princess Isabelle, Ewan McGregor as Elmont, Stanley Tucci as Roderick, Ian McShane as King Brahmwell, Eddie Marsan as Crawe, Ewen Bremner as Wicke, Warwick Davis as Old Hamm, Bill Nighy as General Fallon, Ralph Brown as General Entin, Andrew Brooke as Fye, Ben Daniels as Fumm, Daniel Lapaine as Jack's Dad, Lee Boardman as Badger, Christian Wolf-La'Moy as Horse Merchant, Duncan JC Mais as The kings Foot Soldier, Santi Scinelli as Soothsayer, Caroline Hayes as Jack's Mum, Angus Barnett as Foe, Alex MacQueen as Tour Guide, Tandi Wright as The Queen
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