Once upon a Fairy Tale

Article excerpt

The story's the thing in entertaining reinvention of Jack and the Beanstalk story

It is important to note that director Bryan Singer's fantasy film Jack the Giant Slayer begins with the reading of a story.

One location is a humble farmer's cottage, where a cheery lad is hearing the story from his widowed dad. The other location is a castle bedroom where the same story is told to a princess by the queen.

Point taken: There is nothing quite so democratic as a bedtime story.

With that in mind, Singer proceeds to tell the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. It is gracefully embellished to accommodate a feature length. But it stands apart from other films in the recent wave of fairy tale reinvention.

The little boy grows up to be Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a good lad sent by his uncle to trade in the family horse for a few dollars to sustain their failing farm. The village is no place for a plucky rustic. He gets to come to the defence of a comely lass who turns out to be Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), but Jack returns from his mission with only a few beans to show for his horse-trading.

At the same time, Isabelle decides to run away from home, and finds herself escaping a storm, taking refuge in Jack's farmhouse.

We all know what happens when one of the beans hits earth. A massive beanstalk sprouts and carries Jack's whole cottage skyward, with the princess still inside.

Soon, a detachment arrives from the king, led by the noble Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and the less-than-noble high constable Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who knows more than he says about the appearance of this exotic vegetation. Roderick alone anticipates that the giants of the bedtime stories are real... and numerous. So up they go to rescue the princess... among other agendas.

Singer's first film (The Usual Suspects) was something of a treatise on storytelling. Even if his material is comic book-inspired (X-Men, X-2: X-Men United), he treats the familiar material with respect, and just a bit of cheek. …