Review – Jack, The Budget Buster (“Jack, the Giant Slayer”)

Plagued by problems since 2009 (and at a reported cost of 189 million,) this fantasy for adults, directed by Bryan Singer, hopes to be another winner in the recent string of fairy tales movies come to life, and by the looks of this one, it certainly tried the hardest.

We have the requisite good-looking hero, farm-boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and his woes of late: his uncle has sent him to town to sell the family horse (nope, no cow here) where he meets the gorgeous Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) he has left the confines of the castle for what she really craves… adventure!

Jack runs into a nutty monk who has stolen evil magic beans from the King’s powerful and wicked adviser, Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci, having fun here) that he gives Jack for his horse. Faster than you can say “plot point”, the beans spout a ginormous beanstalk that yanks the Princess up into the sky and to the land of the Giants. Big ones, too. And a whole lotta them!

Eager to prove his love for Isabelle (yes, they fell in love…who knew?) and desperate to prove his worth to her daddy, the King (Ian McShane), he joins the rescue team in scaling the stalk. Leading the expedition is Elmont (Ewan McGregor, sporting a crazy hairdo), the King’s head of the guards, and some assorted soldiers who will get naturally killed off in time.

The land of the Giants waaaaay up in the sky is immense and ruled by a two-headed nasty named Fallon (Bill Nighy–through CGI motion capture). Once Jack rescues Isabelle and Elmont from certain death by, you guessed it, slaying a Giant, things go badly. It seems that a magical crown (that can control all Giants), has been stolen by Roderick, and he plans on using it to usurp the throne and rule the Earth by having the Giants do his bidding!

Can Jack and friends get down from the Giant’s world in time to warn the King? Will the Giants carry out their nefarious plan? Will Jack and the Princess hook up at the end? Gee, what do you think?

Beset by many writers that continually re-wrote the script and changed the storyline, this is NOT the kid-friendly film it started out to be. It has a huge body count, an impressive amount of head-chewing/biting off, and more than enough violence to give this film a hard PG-13 rating. The story drags until we reach the Giant’s land, which is visually impressive with all the CGI work, but the real action finally comes at the close of the third act when the Giants attack the King’s castle. The cast looks like they were into the story, and yes, visually the cinematography (by Newton Thomas Sigel) is outstanding, but the slow tempo and pace needed to be picked up on the whole. Again, a weak script and “too many cooks spoiling the soup” damaged what could have been a terrific eye-candy, fun-family movie.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962)

Kerwin Mathews, the good looking guy who practically made his career in stop-motion animated movies like “The Three World’s of Gulliver” and “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”, made a bizarre fantasy film in 1962 about a man named Jack who saves a princess from a giant and an evil sorcerer.

Made in Italy, it’s lavishly shot, with costumes that scream FASHION and cinematography in glorious Technicolor! The plot here is cartoon-y and silly and obviously made for children in mind.
Princess Elaine (Judi Meredith) is abducted from the royal palace by the giant of a crazed sorcerer named Pendragon (Torin Thatcher, really hamming it up). Brave, brave, brave, Jack (Mathews) rescues the princess and slays the giant in the process, which irks Pendragon to no end.

The King is so grateful that he instructs Jack to protect Elaine as she is sent to a convent (??!!) across the sea for protection. But Pendragon re-captures her again and she’s wisked away to his evil island fortress. That just gives Jack an excuse to rescue her again and face perilous stop-motion clay animated villains like two-headed giants, and a dumb-looking dragon. And Jack does all this with some help: a tiny leprechaun trapped in a small whiskey flask!

It’s childish with wild, bold colors and ridiculous dialogue, and so silly that this movie has even been re-cut into a dubbed “musical” ! Factoid: The stop-motion clay animators even went so far as to steal their techniques from stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen, whom they where apprenticed with, for their own visual effects. Rent it, it’s laughable!

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