Recently filmmakers have been dusting off fairy tales and giving them a revisionist feminist spin. As Red Riding Hood and Mirror Mirror suggest, striking a balance between the old (and often sexist) and the new (and vaguely progressive) is trickier than it might seem. The makers of Snow White and the Huntsman tried to reconcile two potentially irreconcilable ideas — a thoroughly modern miss and an old-fashioned happily ever after — by putting a sword in Snow White’s hands so she could ride alongside her heroic hunk.
The makers of Jack the Giant Slayer have generally opted to stick to the original boy meets beans, boy loses beans, boy meets giants, and so on, embellishing the familiar bedtime story with 3D and other effects, noisy battles and an occasional wink at the material. Partly what distinguishes this Jack from earlier farm boys who logged adventures with big men and legumes is that he’s played by Nicholas Hoult whose sensitive eyes and droopiness make them unthreatening romantic playthings.
For its first 90 minutes, Jack the Giant Slayer is painlessly diverting. The visual design for the giants and the beanstalks keeps your eyes busy, even when the story sets your mind to wandering. If it drifts with increasing frequency it’s because, well, this finally is just a digitally souped-up, one-dimensional take on Jack and the Beanstalk, capped by the kind of interminable blowout that makes many big-studio entertainments feel as long as the last Oscars.
Jack the Giant Slayer 3D/2D (u/a)
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor
Running time: 114 minutes