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by Leonard Maltin
March 1, 2013 1:05 AM
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Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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.)

Although 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.

Photo by Daniel Smith - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

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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  • Tin | June 15, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    Movies have been getting longer and longer. And it the reward of having a longer movie is that you get more character development and plot build-up then I'm all for it. But when you have to sit through a 2.5 hour movie in which the second half is one explosion after another - it gets tiresome pretty fast. Unless you have the brain of a goldfish and each explosion is fresh because you've already forgotten about the 10 explosions before it.

  • Roderick Cherry | March 12, 2013 11:12 PMReply

    I agree that "Jack" was a bit too long, but my buddy and I were pleasantly surprised by how good this movie is. And, we didn't see it in 3D, only in HD on a large (not IMAX) screen. It was better than either one of us expected. It was a rousing adventure, and full of great visual effects. The rise and fall of the beanstalks was thrilling to watch! Too bad that so few are taking the time to see this (although the large-screen theater we saw it in at 3:00 on Saturday was full), because they're missing out on the fun! Now, it's getting buried beneath "Oz."

  • Jeffrey | March 7, 2013 10:29 PMReply

    If a film is too long, its too long. I totally empathize with Leonard Maltin on having that complaint about certain films.

  • Stephen Dunn | March 5, 2013 12:56 PMReply

    Leonard, You think movies are too long because your job is watchng movies, and you are itching to get off work. Those of us who are paying ten bucks or more to see the thing might be forgiven for not wanting to get home ASAP.

  • Walt Mitchell | March 2, 2013 1:27 PMReply

    You're right, Leonard! That's Hollywood mentality these days: "We've got all this money and all this super technology and we're going to show off every last bit of it, no matter how long it takes and no matter how bored the audience is likely to get!" Heaven forbid that they should bring home a movie that runs 75 or 80 minutes, with a budget that approaches reality! :-p!

  • Norm | March 1, 2013 3:56 PMReply

    Jack the Time Slayer, er whatever, at least they didn't remake Jack the Giant Killer..Where would we be if they couldn't name the film the same ...intermission...

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