"Jack the Giant Slayer" -- the latest film foray into giving classic fairytales a modern look -- combines a likable hero with a fun story and flashy special effects to make the movie fee fi fo fun.
This isn't the typical story of a young farm boy who plants magic beans and climbs the vines to steal a golden harp from a slow-moving giant. In this version, from screen writers Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) accidentally creates the sky-high vine and in the process puts Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) in danger. Jack joins members of the King's army -- led by the chivalrous Elmont (Ewan McGregor) -- who climb the vines to take on more giants than you will find in San Francisco.
These giants are a snot-eating, foul-smelling, dim-witted lot until they come under the magical spell of the conniving Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who ignites a war.
Typical fairytale elements are given nice tweaks, such as having the princess be less of a damsel in distress and more of an equal to her heroic saviors. There is a slight comical touch to the king -- played with a great royal tough by Ian McShane. But in the end, he's less of the comic relief and just as much a hero.
Every good fairytale needs a hero, and Hoult fills that bill with a youthful enthusiasm and natural charm. Hoult's been working in fantasy films lately, with this offering and "Warm Bodies," but if he ever decides to concentrate on pure romantic comedies, the young British actor could easily fill the void left when Hugh Grant aged out of those roles.
Hoult's performance is that much more impressive considering this is a movie driven by huge special effects. It would have been easy to get overshadowed, but he has a large enough presence on screen to prevent that from happening.
Director Bryan Singer -- no stranger to action films having helmed "Superman Returns" and "X-Men" -- ramps up the action, especially in the final battle where, despite the medieval nature of the weapons, the fight is as explosive as any modern-age donnybrook. He excels in the use of 3D technology, giving a true sense of how big the giants are when they are look down upon their smaller opponents.
The combination of the strong special effects and solid acting translates to "Jack the Giant Slayer" accomplishing one titanic feat -- it's huge fun to watch. One word of warning: the giants' taste for human blood may scare young moviegoers.
"Jack the Giant Slayer," rated PG-13 for violence and scary images. Stars Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci. Directed by Bryan Singer. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. Grade: B Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.