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Some fairy
tales and fables are dark, while others invite a range of interpretations. This
rendering of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is pretty full-blooded, especially for a
family-oriented film, but this gives it some backbone to match its elaborate
visual effects. You’ve never seen giants quite like these before, let alone a
live-action beanstalk that rumbles from the earth and soars into the sky. Director
Bryan Singer has gathered an excellent cast, with Nicholas Hoult as the
underdog hero and likable newcomer Eleanor Tomlinson as the self-reliant princess
who inspires his bravery. The always-welcome Ewan McGregor plays her official
protector, while Ian McShane brings gravitas to his role as her father, The
King. Then there’s Stanley Tucci as the traitorous villain of the piece; like
McGregor, he always brings something special to the banquet. (I believe this
film includes his first screen swordfight, unless I dozed off during Julie & Julia.)

filmed on location at Hampton Court and other locations in England, Jack the Giant Slayer is heavily
dependent on CGI effects which are, for the most part, quite effective,
especially in 3-D. They also oblige us to believe what we see even when we know
what we’re watching is impossible. The lumbering but expressive giants were
created through the motion capture technique, drawing on performances from such
fine actors as Bill Nighy.

My only real
quarrel with Jack, other than the
intensity and violence of its battle scenes (which are too potent for younger
children), is that it goes on too long. Some people deride me for saying this
as often as I do, but when I begin to tire of a movie long before its
conclusion—without looking at my watch—there’s nothing else I can do. Jack the Giant Slayer has many good
ingredients and would have been a stronger, more satisfying movie if it had
been shorter. 

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