Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a sweet farm boy (farm teen?) who yearns for adventure. He grew up listening to tales of giants coming down from their kingdom “between heaven and earth” to battle humans, but they were just stories, right? Real life proves to be much more boring.
That is until he accidentally comes across some magical beans, and those magical beans accidentally get wet (whatever you do… don’t get them wet!). Next thing you know, a giant beanstalk is bursting through his humble home’s floorboards and reaching for the sky, unfortunately taking the local beautiful princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) with it (not going to bother explaining how she got there). It is up to Jack and the King’s loyal men to climb the beanstalk and face the giants in order to rescue the princess!
That sounds pretty kiddie-friendly, yes? But the first peek of one of the giants is actually kind of terrifying. Let’s just say the first thing that popped into my head was one of the scary, filthy, gap-toothed menacing hillbillies from Deliverance (shudder). These giants will pick up a man and bite off his head (which is just barely done off-camera with a quick cut), and they will skewer a live pig wrapped in dough (pigs in a blanket… get it?). It may be a fairy tale, but it is more Grimm than Goose. Some of this stuff would scare tots for sure. That said, because Jack the Giant Slayer can’t seem to find an even tone for its (undefined) audience, the filmmakers will insert a gratuitous long, sticky booger shot, and later feature a giant letting forth a giant-sized fart. Yay! All that was missing was a good poop joke.
The cast in this vaguely enjoyable, yet still forgettable adventure, is surprisingly top notch, even as they all flail around making the best of rather slim character development. Ewan McGregor and Eddie Marsan are the King’s guard; Stanley Tucci, a weasel betrothed to the princess, is joined by Ewen Bremner as his sidekick; and Ian McShane shows up as the King. You’d think McShane would be more badass than he was, but I just kept thinking he had this look on his face that he’d rather be chewing scenery on Game of Thrones instead.
Jack the Giant Slayer is pretty middle of the road in all possible ways (expect, perhaps, its budget—estimated at almost $200 million!). It’s neither great nor terrible. It’s too scary for tots, and not clever enough for adults. Its great cast gives performances that are fine, but not memorable. Jack the Giant Slayer is… well, it’s just alright.
In addition to the requisite Deleted Scenes and Gag Reel, the Blu-ray includes an interactive beanstalk game, “Become a Giant Slayer”. Chose the direction you want to climb using the arrows on your remote, and, based on your success, you unlock the behind-the-scenes featurettes. I was most interested to find out that Bill Nighy did the voice of the scariest giant, General Fallon—a menacing Terminator of a villain, who happens to sport a second, more goofy head. Nighy mentions that he decided that it seemed appropriate that his giant have a Northern Ireland accent, and you can only wonder what sort of cultural baggage went into that reasoning.