Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
Directed by Bryan Singer
Screenplay by Darren Lemke and Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney; Story by Darren Lemke & David Dobkin
Okay, strap in, because there’s quite a bit of backstory to swallow before we can get to the crappy front story. Our hero Jack is a young boy who talks intimately to his action figure (c’mon, we all did it. When I was little nobody understood me but Cobra Commander), and has a Dead Mother® (this trope used by permission of the Walt Disney Corporation, all rights reserved). He lives with his father, and even though they’re medieval peasants who presumably share their tumbledown cottage with goats and pigs, they’re both spotlessly clean and have shiny, bouncy hair, suggesting that OCD is hereditary. Anyway, Dad is a literate Dark Age dirt farmer, and he reads Jack a Dungeons & Dragons game module about some guys who pulled the old Tower of Babel bit, except with beans, and climbed up into the clouds only to discover it was occupied by giants who took a Mick Jaggery attitude toward cumulus squatters.
The giants climb down the beanstalk and discover that D&D gamers, while gamy, are good eating (I recommend washing and peeling them first to get rid of that faint taste of unwashed Han Shot First t-shirt). Fortunately, King Erik has read Lord of the Rings, and he melts down a dead giant’s heart and uses the reduction to create One Crown to rule them all, which forces the giants to do his bidding, and then with the remaining stock he makes a delicious consommé.
Okay, everybody up to speed? Oh, and there’s a Little Princess in a castle whose mother reads her the same story, and apparently she likes to surreptitiously explore the royal catacombs and harass the corpses, so hopefully she’ll grow up to be Laura Croft. Okay, I think that’s it. We’re good. Cue the credits, and crank up Generic Soaring Fanfare, Opus 18 in D Minor…
10 YEARS LATER (according to the superimposed titles, and they’ve never lied to me before). Jack has grown up into the Beast from those X-Men movies, before he turned into a Furry, and then Kelsey Grammer. Jack’s Dad is dead (ironically, excessive use of antibacterial soaps can reduce one’s natural resistance to disease), and Jack’s uncle is forcing him to sell a horse. Instead, he goes to the theater, where the title character from Willow is rehashing the prologue, so we get to enjoy that whole thing all over again. Princess Tomb Raider has graduated from peeping on her deceased ancestors to slumming with the groundlings, but she gets sexually harassed by three drunken blokes. Jack intervenes and gets his ass kicked, but he’s saved by Ewan McGregor (I can’t remember his character name, but he’s playing an older, bearded, mentor figure with a sword, so I’m just going to call him Obi-Wan).
Stanley Tucci is the resident Bad Guy Betrothed to the Princess, and steals the One Crown and the Magic Beans from King Erik’s grave, but gets bean-jacked by a monk! Stanley orders a police pursuit, so the monk offers the beans to Jack in exchange for his horse, giving a big speech about how legumes are destiny and will change the world, and how you shouldn’t get them wet because they’re kinda like Mogwais.
Princess Lara dresses up like a boy and rides out into a rainstorm so she can get lost and wind up at Jack’s cottage for some androgynous flirting. Unfortunately, all this humid sexuality makes the beans moist, and a stalk erupts through the roof, in what I can only assume is director Brian Singer’s recurring dream. Jack falls out of the house, and Princess Lara gets carried away into the sky on the tip of the stalk, which isn't even symbolism, it's just flat-out bragging.
Lara’s father, King Ian McShane, orders Stanley, Obi-Wan, and Jack up the beanstalk to rescue his daughter, and kill some time with a lengthy climbing sequence. It does drag on, but at least when they finally get to the computer-generated top we’re rewarded with long, stupefied reaction shots as our heroes stare in amazement at how fake it all looks. Meanwhile, Stanley bean-jacks the remaining beans from Jack.
Okay, time for a walking sequence now, as Jack, Obi-Wan and company follow Princess Lara’s trail and discover she’s wandered deep into tunnels and forest, carving her initials everywhere she goes like Arne Saknussen. Eventually, Obi-Wan and one of his hench-wans get captured by a giant while Jack reclines on the bottom of a stream and holds his breath, because apparently nobody in this version of the Middle Ages had invented the “breathe through a reed” bit, their wizards and natural philosophers being too busy perfecting Neutragena.
Lara has also been snatched up and locked in a My Size birdcage at Giant HQ, where the eponymous creatures take turns leering into the 3-D camera. It’s hard to tell them apart; fortunately the giant generalissimo has an abrasive Scottish accent, and a smaller, louder, stupider head growing out of his shoulder, which I imagine is what it feels like to be Steve Doocy sitting next to Brian Kilmeade.
Stanley shows up with the One Crown, and drafts the giants into his scheme for world conquest. Meanwhile, it’s time for a Julia Child cooking show, except with a giant (but I repeat myself). Chef Nephilim is making Obi-Wans in a Blanket today, but Jack stabs him in the neck while he’s chopping parsley.
Back on Earth, the kidnapping of King Lovejoy’s daughter is taken as a signal to party down, and a Ren Fest breaks out at the bottom of the beanstalk.
Back in Giantopia, or Food Giant, or whatever the hell it’s called, Jack leads Obi-Wan and Lara outside. Then he kisses a boo-boo on her wrist, and says some inspirational bullshit that reminds her of her mother, which is generally the point in any date when you realize you’re not getting laid.
Hey, it’s been a few minutes, how about another walking scene? I doubt this movie did much for the stars' careers, but it certainly improved their cardiovascular conditioning.
Jack finds a sleeping giant guarding the beanstalk. He cunningly drops a beehive into its helmet, and if you’ve ever longed to see a crudely animated character from a Playstation game recreate that scene from The Wicker Man where Nicolas Cage screams, “Not the bees!”, then congratulations, you’ve just been fanserved. Despite the title Jack the Giant Slayer, this giant actually commits suicide by jumping to his death, but I have a feeling Jack still reports it as a kill to the game warden in order to claim the fifty-dollar bounty. The giant lands on a group of praying monks and King Al Swearengen freaks out and orders the beanstalk to be cut down.
Oblivious to the deadly gardening going on below them, Jack and Princess Lara repeat the climbing sequence, except in reverse, but Obi-Wan stays behind in Cloudland Estates (a Planned Community for Active Giants), vowing to retrieve the One Crown and stop Stanley and his army of Brobdingnagian temps. The next day he wakes up beside the beanstalk, exactly where we left him, having gone nowhere and achieved nothing, so this film, although filled with contemptible nitwits, has given me at least one character to identify with.
Eventually Stanley trips over Obi-Wan, and then basically falls on his knife and dies, and again, I’m guessing Obi-Wan lists that on his resume as a kill – or at least as Stage Combat Experience. But Giant General Double-Header plucks the One Crown off Stanley’s dead noggin and slips it onto his finger (where it obligingly glows like the One Ring) and now he’s Double-Header the First, King of the Giants. Meanwhile, the beanstalk falls over, crushing the Renaissance Festival and half the castle, but Jack and Lara and Obi-Wan just ride it down like one of those Parachute Rides at the county fair, meaning they barely survive, and afterwards their pants are sticky and smell vaguely of malt liquor.
Okay, they’re back on terra firma, Lara and the King Lovejoy are heading home to the castle, Jack is heading back to his weirdly spotless farm, and this would be a perfect time to roll the end credits. Unfortunately, King Double-Header’s smaller, stupider head notices the bag of magic beans, so now there’s still 41 minutes to go. (And this is exactly why, although I never met a man I didn’t like, I almost always hate the mutated heads growing out of their shoulders. Pop it! Pop it!)
The giants cultivate some more beanstalks in a lavish special effects sequence that delivers all the chills and excitement of that Second Grade experiment where you stick toothpicks in a yam and suspend it in a glass of water. They climb down and attack, so our heroes hide in the castle, while the King’s men and the giants have a prolonged tug-of-war over the drawbridge that fails as entertainment, but succeeds in making you glad you didn’t go to your company’s summer picnic.
Jack and Princess Lara run to light a beacon to summon aid from Gondor and Rohan, but giants, as we learned from the fairy tale, can burrow like gophers, and King Double-Header pops up out of the floor. Jack drops his remaining magic bean down the giant’s throat and a seed grows in his tummy, just the way it does in that old wives tale about where babies come from, and it rips his body into shreds, which is hard cheese, since they don’t even give him an episiotomy.
Everyone squares off for a big battle, giving the film one last, desperate chance to generate some thrills. Instead, Jack saunters out wearing the One Crown, the giants immediately kneel down, and there’s a long awkward pause as our heroes exchange glances that seem to say, “Shouldn’t one of us have a line here?” Cut to the future (or the present?) where Jack is wrapping up the tale while he and Princess Lara put their two children to bed. Okay then, I guess he was telling the story the whole.. Wait…No. Cut to the future again (the actual present) where a docent is showing off the One Crown to a tour group at the Tower of London. Okay then. If I’d known it was going to be like this, I’d have gone to see the Changing of the Guard instead.
An evil-looking schoolboy stares with evil intent at the crown, and even though I didn’t really give a crap about the movie’s villains, I find it in my heart to sincerely loathe this kid, since he’s trying to set up a sequel.