Here's a new take on an old tale. Rated PG-13 and directed by Bryan Singer ("X-Men"), this "Jack and the Beanstalk" is well cast, visually exciting, and lots of fun. Computer Generated Imaging has made fantasy stories more and more fantastical; this one is mind-boggling.
- * Nicholas Hoult ("Warm Bodies") is resourceful and resolute as Jack, the nice young man who drops a magic bean and... "Uh oh," gets it wet. Later, as he clambers up that amazing beanstalk, he admits he "doesn't much like heights."
- * Eleanor Tomlinson ("Alice in Wonderland") is Isabel, an adventurous princess who finds waaaay more adventure than she bargained for.
- * Ian McShane ("Deadwood") is the king, ready to marry off his daughter to a much older man in order to achieve peace with a neighboring kingdom. But he pitches right in when his kingdom is under attack.
- * Stanley Tucci ("The Hunger Games") makes the perfect bridegroom/villain: ambitious, ruthless and cruel. Once he gets the magic crown, the wedding is off!
- * Ewan McGregor ("The Impossible") is our stalwart guardsman Elmont: organized, decisive and brave. It looks like McGregor enjoys being in a comedy for a change.
- * Bill Nighy ("About Time") is the lead Giant. He has a little spare head sitting on one shoulder, which offers another point of view.
If you take a 12-year-old boy (the perfect demographic) reassure him that there is less than a minute of "mush." Otherwise, it's slam-bang action, with lots of spears, arrows, horses, drawbridges, armor, swords, boiling oil, burning trees and other weapons of the middle ages.
I can't think of a thing I would change; 114 minutes flew by. The battle scenes aren't too long, the giants are appropriately icky, our hero is valiant and the heroine is plucky. We all ducked when a crown bounced into the audience, but beyond that, the story is engaging enough that there should be no need to spring for the extra 3D charge.