12:57 p.m., March 7, 2013

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'Jack the Giant Slayer': improvement on retelling of childhood tales

As we progress into the 21st century it is inevitable that all of the classic works of literature and figures of importance get the “explosions-boobs-heartthrob” treatment. Alice met Johnny Depp, Abe Lincoln murdered vampires and Snow White went from a light-hearted songstress to a vacant-eyed emo. It seems only fitting that the old beanstalk tale gets its day with handsome British people who wear elaborate costumes. I call it the Elton-John treatment.

As the famous tale goes, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is given a set of magical beans in exchange for a horse, which, when planted, sprout a giant beanstalk that leads to a legendary land inhabited by bone-munching giants. The moral of this story is turn around, ignore what’s going on around you and mind your turnips.

Despite the first two paragraphs of this review, “Jack the Giant Slayer” isn’t actually a terrible movie. As the movie progressed, I saw the standard exuberance of visual dazzle which range from beautiful to horribly noticeable. The wide-angle crane scenes, especially of the giant land, the earth-bound kingdom of Cloister and the giants themselves look detailed to perfection, bringing the beanstalk fable to rich life.

But the best part of the film is the abundance of colorful characters that inhabit and enrich the story. Stanley Tucci, as Roderick, and Ewan McGregor, as Elmont, lead the pack with quick wit and charm. Hoult, as Jack, is sweet and will appeal to young ladies, as planned.

Along with these attributes, director Bryan Singer has designed some rather intense action sequences. He does this by pitting the brute force of the giants against the ingenuity and spirit of the humans, making for some even-handed battles.

Most of these re-imaginings fail (some worse than others) because the creators of the film felt the need to make it look drastically different from the original tale. “Jack” looks and feels different thanks to some clever writing and direction, but even that isn’t enough to make up for the unavoidable flaw of simplicity.

These fables were meant for illiterate children and therefore have zero meat other than in adventure. This makes “Jack,” though fun to watch, nothing more than a tame PG-13 adventure flick.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” is a step in the right direction for all of the fable modernizations as evidenced by its ending. The final few minutes are predictable and a little silly, but the previous action sequence is thrilling, engaging and somewhat comedic, which is something movies like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” struggled to achieve. “Jack” is a sign of healthy improvement in the growing genre of poorly retelling the tales we last knew as children.


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