Movie review: 'Jack the Giant Slayer' sprouts magical, twisty turns

Two heads are better than one when it comes to the leader of the oversize ogres in "Jack the Giant Slayer."

The character of General Fallon, who has the raspy voice of Bill Nighy, has a miniature secondary head growing out of his right shoulder. It's just one of the many ways in which the movie takes the fairy tale and, like magic beans, makes it sprout on a grand scale -- including in 3-D in some theaters.

In addition to Jack, an orphan "not wildly keen on heights" played with wonder and gumption by Nicholas Hoult, the story features a spunky princess, her regal father, an untrustworthy suitor, a knight charged with her safekeeping and a gaggle of giants on their sky-high turf and miles below on Earth.

'Jack the Giant Slayer'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Ewan McGregor.

  • Rating:

    PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.

The bones -- and beans -- of the bedtime story are still here, but writers Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney have made changes small and very large.

They nicely set up parallel stories of young Jack and Princess Isabelle and jump a decade ahead when Isabelle's mother has died and Jack is 18 and living with his tenant-farmer uncle since the death of his widowed father from the plague.

Jack is sent to sell their horse and cart but becomes distracted, saves a young woman who turns out to be the princess, loses the cart and swaps the horse for beans, with the promise of money to come.

Proving her declaration that she's "not some fragile, helpless creature," the princess later strikes out on her own, gets lost and lands at Jack's cabin, where a leaky roof ends up watering the beans and sending the house shooting heavenward.

When Jack and others -- including the weasel Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who is supposed to marry the princess, and chivalrous knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) -- start up the beanstalk, they get much more than they bargained for, not to mention a chance to show their true colors. And try to avoid being turned into human hors d'oeuvres.

"Jack the Giant Slayer" traffics in peril on land, on the beanstalk stretching five miles high and back in the kingdom below.

Director Bryan Singer, who made "The Usual Suspects" along with two (soon to be three) "X-Men" movies and "Superman Returns" with Brandon Routh, knows how to paint on a big canvas, whether that's turning stony cliffs into stony faces or sending horseback riders racing across a grassy expanse for the sanctuary of a castle.

In case you have a little one with a short attention span, the movie runs 115 minutes. But it's old-fashioned adventure, with 25-foot-tall giants born with the help of motion capture, adorable up-and-comer Mr. Hoult ("Warm Bodies," "About a Boy"), a hope for happily ever after and dialogue such as, "Archers, to the parapets!" Or the popcorn.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published March 1, 2013 5:00 AM


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