Jack the Giant Slayer: Rock-Headed Charm and CGI Wizardry
The problem with the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story, of course, is that the first thing the protagonist does is trade valuable livestock for a handful of beans that a stranger convinces him are magic. Everything Jack does after that has to be framed with a single question: Well, what did you expect? This is the dumb motherfucker who thought legumes were valuable currency. The new Hollywood retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk," Jack the Giant Slayer, doesn't do away with that beans-for-cow trade, although in this version, the animal Jack trades away is his family's only horse, which arguably makes his decision even more idiotic and irresponsible. Nicholas Hoult, then, plays a fine Jack: He's dumb as a post but likable enough, not to mention unbelievably pretty.
Pretty, dumb, and likable essentially sets the tone for Jack the Giant Slayer. We get all the standard reinvented-fairy-tale elements, including a brash young princess in search of adventure (Eleanor Tomlinson), an evil sleazebag betrothed to said princess (Stanley Tucci, blandly cartoonish), and an army of evil CGI giants. Ewan McGregor provides a little joyous fizz as an always-prepared, ridiculously valiant knight, and what Ian McShane lacks in presence as the king of the realm, he more than makes up for in a wildly impractical wardrobe including golden armor and immense furry capes.
As far as the recent rash of fairy-tale reimaginings go, Jack the Giant Slayer is much more vibrant than the mirthless Snow White and the Huntsman. There are no surprises, but a few moments—especially the first tense scene that reveals the giant—are notably well-crafted. It's inoffensive and entirely forgettable, but it crams in enough rock-headed charm and SFX wizardry to pass the time, although the lackluster 3-D is not worth the extra expense.