Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer in Theaters Now

Jack the Giant Slayer was my second choice to see in theaters this month, but when you have kids, sometimes you just have to go with the time that works. Oz the Great and Powerful comes out next weekend, and Jack was in town now. So, we went to see Jack. My expectations were set rather low. By now, I should know better than to trust any reviews from Entertainment Weekly Magazine. As much as I enjoy getting my copy in the mail every Friday, I rarely agree with their opinions on movies. Jack got a C+ from them, and though to a certain extent I can see why they thought it was only an average movie, I thought there were aspects of it that really made it stand out from the typical fairytale fare we're often served.

Overall, I really liked Jack the Giant Slayer. I didn't see it in 3D, which is probably an adventure all by itself, but it didn't need the effects to be entertaining. Jack has danger, wild adventure, a bit of romance, and just the right touch of humor, all of these characteristics melding together into a lighthearted but still epic tale of heroism. It doesn't try to be funny just to be funny, but it doesn't take itself too seriously either. It's fun.

The plot itself is very straightforward, but that's not to say it's entirely predictable. The princess gets snatched. The farm boy goes to save her. All kinds of adventure follow. But the conflict isn't drawn out as many other similar movies do. Nothing takes too long to resolve. No conflict lasts throughout the movie. Bad guys die off like flies. But all this keeps the movie moving and changing, and the viewer doesn't get bored. The stereotypical mistrust you often have between a story's good characters, all the misunderstanding that slows the plot down, just isn't there. Although that kind of stuff can make good conflict sometimes, it's so overdone in movies, especially romances, that you feel like yelling at the central characters to get over themselves and see what the audience saw long ago. But Jack moves things right along in a way that's refreshing. Sure, you don't get a lot of in-depth character development, but that's not why you go to see a movie like Jack.

And you don't need a lot of character development when you have fantastic entertaining characters to begin with, as Jack does. Though, admittedly, they are static and somewhat stereotypical, they are also individualized. Even the minor characters stand out, quirky and fun, and you care or at least have an opinion ("he deserved to lose his head") about nearly all of them. I really enjoyed seeing a relatively new face in Jack himself, played adorably by Nicholas Hoult. And Ian McShane and Ewan McGregor give fun, heartfelt, memorable performances as the king and the head guard in charge of the princess's safety. They have the best lines.

Jack is rated PG-13. A fair amount of people die, some rather gruesomely eaten by giants, but nothing is very graphic. There are probably some middle-schoolers who would absolutely love it, but I, personally, wouldn't take younger kids.

(Minor SPOILER alert!) Jack certainly has its over-the-top moments (like falling with a giant beanstalk and landing safely, or the princess coming out of her tent with perfect curls literally ten seconds after looking like she'd just ridden aforementioned falling beanstalk a mile to the ground), but the moments fit in fairytale land without making the movie completely implausible for those of us who like things a little more real. It's a solid fairytale movie without the singing or overabundance of cheap jokes that many lighter, bubblier fairytale movies have. Comparing it to other fairytales adapted for the screen, it's not nearly as serious as Snow White and the Huntsman, but it's not as ridiculous as Ella Enchanted (which I enjoyed anyway, back in the day) or Mirror, Mirror. There's a happy middle that evokes childhood memories of listening sleepily to your parents reading grand adventures. Incidentally, but perhaps not accidentally, that's exactly how Jack the Giant Slayer begins, with children listening to tall tales. And if you go see Jack, just sit back, become a kid again, and enjoy the telling.

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