This animated adventure/drama isn’t really designed for kids, though it’s based on a children’s fairy tale: “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
It’s really more like the David and Goliath saga. Young, frail-looking teenager is born a poor farm boy, but with his courage and tenacity manages to woo and win the fair maiden princess anyway, despite the ambivalence of the surly king. Oh, and he also saves the kingdom from the fierce Philistines, er, rampaging giants. And eventually they all bow down to him as their king.
Jack (the voice of Nicholas Hoult) comes into possession of the magic beans because he allowed a shady monk-like figure to talk him into taking the beans as collateral for his horse, assuring Jack that the abbey would be glad to pay full price. (It was King Saul who decided it would do the kingdom good to slay all the priests.) Yes, Jack is naïve, too. But for a kid wanting off the dirt farm and hoping for an unforgettable adventure, what could be better than a beanstalk that leads straight to the clouds?
He finds there not just one giant, but a land with many giants, who are not only strong and aggressive, but also cruel and rapacious. They eat humans without compunction. Whole. Uncooked. (This is the part that’s not designed for small children.)
But there’s still more magic in play here. It seems there’s a shining crown, and whoever wears it is automatically the king of the giants. A nefarious nobleman in the human king’s court covets the magic crown, so he can then ride at the head of the giants’ army to take over the human kingdom. (You’ll recall that King David had to endure a little palace intrigue himself.) And the giants have already captured sweet Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), the damsel in distress with a bit of an independent streak.
(Yes, we recall when Princess Michal helped young harp-playing David to escape from her father Saul’s wrath.)
The CGI in this film is excellent; the plot is a bit complex but understandable. The filmmakers take some poetic license with the traditional story; but then, every old fable has different versions anyway, right? (We’ll let the biblicists discuss how this might apply to differing scriptural traditions.) “Jack The Giant Slayer” is just a fun adventure, where the animation makes the violence a bit more distant, but we are still rooting for the good guys, and the romance. And happily ever after. Even though King David’s story didn’t exactly turn out as blissful as it could have.
Oh, and about that magic crown. It just might be on display in Westminster Abbey somewhere, just waiting for someone to come along and re-activate the timeless legend. Altogether now: Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum……
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.