After the gloomy heroics of Snow White & The Huntsman, the gloomy moping of Red Riding Hood and the gloomy bullshit of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, it’s a welcome relief to hear a bedtime story told with the light on. taking the humble old English panto and turning it into a campy, technicolor, 3D The Lord Of The Rings, Bryan Singer makes the tale of Jack And The Beanstalk look and sound the way kids always wanted it to.
The story hasn’t changed much - it just got a lot bigger. There’s a plucky farm boy (Nicholas Hoult), a feisty princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and a mix up with a bag of magic beans that leaves Jack on the ground and the damsel in distress.
Ian McShane’s stumpy king waits beneath the beanstalk whilst his most disposable knights, his finest cad (Ewan McGregor) and his most dastardly royal advisor (Stanley Tucci) climb up to rescue his daughter.
OK, so Hoult’s hoodie-wearing hero cuts a strangely modern Jack.
But the deadpan X-man turns out to be a perfect choice for singer’s slack-jawed blend of old-fashioned swashbuckling and modern fun-poking. Good thing, too: McGregor’s quaffed popinjay and Tucci’s boo-hiss villain are walking hams, and Singer chooses to keep the jokes broad and flat instead of attempting the sharp satire that glints through The Princess Bride.
Leaving the kingdom of Albion below, the real stars of the show are up in the clouds.
Here, Singer swaps out the rhyming ogre from the fairytale for an impressive army of CG performance-capture monsters (led by Bill Nighy’s bickering two-headed Goliath), sure to make young kids burst into tears as they leer their ugly 3D mugs into the camera and bite off heads like carrot sticks.
Purists beware: the traditional tale comes to an abrupt end halfway through the movie, with the second act bringing the action down to earth for a monumental FX-fest that pitches a hundred giants against a handful of knights in singer’s cartoonier take on Helm’s Deep.
Relentlessly entertaining and impressively epic, JTGS’s finale hurls a flaming CG oak tree through the story you grew up with.
And while this mish-mash approach - part panto, part sword-swinger, too intense for littl’uns, too cheery for teens - will leave some feeling like they’ve tumbled down the beanstalk and hit every branch on the way down, there’s no doubting one thing: the fairytale is fun again.
Not one for cynics or bedwetters, if you’re after a ripping, roaring, thigh-slapping giant of a fairytale, Bryan Singer’s blockbuster panto will be right up your beanstalk.