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With: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan, Ewen Bremner, Ian McShane, Christopher Fairbank, Warwick Davis, Bill Nighy
Written by: Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney, based on a story by Darren Lemke, David Dobkin
Directed by: Bryan Singer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language
Running Time: 114
Date: 02/27/2013

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

'Giant' Bore

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filled with dark characters and spooky ideas, fairy tales were once intended to simultaneously entertain children and teach them life lessons. Yet the current cinematic trend makes fairy tales bigger, louder, more explosive, and -- at the same time -- more innocuous. The latest, Jack the Giant Slayer, is like a giant itself: dull, slow moving, and slow-witted.

It seems chiefly interested in hoards of rampaging special effects, forgoing most of the simple themes of the 200 year-old "Jack and the Beanstalk" story. Now Jack (Nicholas Hoult) lives on a little farm with his poor uncle, and dreams of adventure. Meanwhile, a princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), living with her overprotective father, the king (Ian McShane), is in much the same situation.

After a single bean is accidentally planted, an enormous beanstalk carries the princess high into the clouds, where not one, but an army of evil giants lives. Jack joins forces with the king's men, led by the heroic Elmont (Ewan McGregor), to rescue her (and fall in love).

The movie relies on a ridiculously cardboard villain, Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who cheerfully kills his fellow humans at a whim and travels with a sneering sidekick (Ewen Bremner). Roderick hopes to take over the kingdom by controlling the giants with a magic crown.

The movie spends long moments with its giants, which look like unfinished digital globs and are neither cool nor frightening. They lack any real characteristics, other than bellowing orders at one another, picking their noses, scratching, burping, and farting. Not even their two-headed commander (voiced by Bill Nighy) comes to life.

Furthermore, the sluggish storytelling hits a huge bump at the three-quarter mark, when it feels as if things are wrapping up, but are really just building to a final, numbing battle.

All this is even more flabbergasting when we consider that the director is Bryan Singer and the co-screenwriter is Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie, who made The Usual Suspects and the smart, pulpy Valkyrie. Their work here is curiously uninspired, and miles away from the clever stories and ideas they're usually associated with.

The whole thing recalls the current Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, another re-imagining of a fairy tale, which, at its best, was much speedier and more lunatic fun. That movie was not for kids. The main drawback of Jack the Giant Slayer seems to be that it wants to appeal to families as a whole. Sadly, it's too thin for grownups, too violent for kids, and too boring for any age.

Warner Home Video has released a Blu-ray of top quality, but with spotty extras. It includes several shallow featurettes, which are -- oddly -- pitched to kids like a puzzle. There's also about 8 minutes of deleted scenes and a short "gag reel."

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