While spooky fairy tales once were intended to entertain and teach children life lessons, thanks to a current cinematic trend, they have become big, loud, explosive and curiously innocuous.
The new “Jack the Giant Slayer” is like a giant itself — dull, slow-moving and slow-witted.
Packed with rampaging special effects, it mostly forgoes simple themes in the 200-year-old “Jack and the Beanstalk” story.
In the movie, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) lives on a little farm with his poor uncle and dreams of adventure. Meanwhile, a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) residing with her overprotective father, the king (Ian McShane), is in much the same situation.
After a single bean is accidentally planted, an enormous beanstalk carries the princess high into the clouds, where not one, but an army, of evil giants live.
Jack joins forces with the king’s men, led by the heroic Elmont (Ewan McGregor), to rescue her (and fall in love).
The ridiculously cardboard villain Roderick (Stanley Tucci) — who hopes to take over the kingdom by controlling the giants with a magic crown — cheerfully kills fellow humans at a whim and travels with a sneering sidekick (Ewen Bremner).
Too much time is spent on the giants, which look like digital globs, are neither cool nor frightening, and lack actual characteristics. They just bellow orders at each other, pick their noses, scratch, burp and fart. Not even their two-headed commander (Bill Nighy) comes to life.
The sluggish storytelling hits a huge bump at the three-quarters mark, when the action should be wrapping up, but instead starts building to a final, numbing battle.
These points are particularly flabbergasting, considering the movie’s director is Bryan Singer and the co-screenwriter is Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie, who made “The Usual Suspects” and the smart, pulpy “Valkyrie.” Their work here is curiously uninspired, miles from their typical clever stories and ideas.
This film recalls the current “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” another reimagining of a fairy tale, which, at its best, was speedier, more lunatic fun and not for kids.
The main drawback of “Jack the Giant Slayer” seems to be that it wants to appeal to families. Sadly, it’s too thin for grown-ups, too violent for kids and too boring for any age.