Like Audrey Hepburn’s character in Roman Holiday, escaping the palace life isn’t exactly easy for Isabelle. Sneaking out on a night where it’s pouring down rain, Isabelle and Jack are eventually reunited when she notices the light on in a nearby cabin that Jack’s staying in. Before they have much time for reconnecting, however, something positively horrifying happens when one of those beans gets wet.

Alas, it’s the beanstalk. Right on cue.

While those who already know the story won’t be surprised by many of the plot twists, the filmmakers do an exceptional job of keeping viewers engaged nonetheless. Not only is ample attention devoted to the characters, which gives the audience plenty of incentive to root for their well-being, but the performances, particularly from supporting players McGregor and Tucci, are inspired rather than phoned in.

Also adding to the film’s bottom line are the truly frightful antagonists—the giants. With the help of motion-capture technology and a scene-stealing performance from Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as a two-headed beast with two distinct personalities (one is a whole lot like Gollum from Lord of the Rings), the fact he feels more real than cartoonish helps deliver the fee-fi-fo-fum with aplomb.

Distinguishing itself from the more impersonal likes of, say, Transformers, Jack the Giant Slayer is a rare instance where the special effects really do make the film special. In other words, Michael Bay should be taking notes.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Some social drinking depicted
  • Language/Profanity: Bast--- is used once, hel- is used twice and the expression “piss off” is also used once. Some scatological humor.
  • Sex/Nudity: Kissing. Some women sport cleavage-y attire.
  • Violence: While largely bloodless, there are several intense fight sequences scattered throughout. One of the characters ends up on a spit wrapped up in pastry with two actual pigs in a blanket. Several men are casually tossed off the beanstalk to their death by their boss. A man is stabbed. Some intense scenes involving truly terrifying giants. When the giants burst through the town, several men and women perish. One character is killed off in spectacularly gruesome fashion.
  • Religion: Monks play a prominent role in the plot, and God is mentioned on several occasions (both reverently and in Roderick’s case, with utter disregard for His rule since he’s power-hungry and ultimately wishes he was in charge).

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

Publication date: March 1, 2013