Fee-fi-fo-fum: All this CGI is dumb. It'll be easy for practical-FX purists to hack Bryan Singer apart for the visual approach of his tricked-out fairy tale: "high gloss, low heart" goes the screed. But while the director has created what looks like a million-shekel iPhone game, the flesh and blood of Jack the Giant Slayer is unexpectedly buoyant due to its young stars.
As a lad, the head-in-the-clouds farm boy (Nicholas Hoult) loves the monster-filled bedtime yarns spun by his father. Same goes for Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), who's lulled to sleep the same way by her queen mum. The shared story: Heroic King Erik protected Albion from an army of freaky-large, sky-dwelling invaders with the use of a magic crown — a good-over-evil triumph entrancing serfs and nobles alike. (Fairy tales: negators of medieval class barriers for that ass since the late fifth century!) Ten years later, Jack is still poor, orphaned and struggling to maintain his dumpy farmhouse; Isabelle rebels against her royal poppa (Ian McShane), who’s arranged for her to marry next-level scumbag Roderick (Stanley Tucci).
Having drawn his uncle's ire for trading a monk a horse for "magic" beans, a dejected Jack’s spirits are lifted by a visit from Isabelle — who's literally lifted when a discarded bean erupts and sends Jack's house, complete with princess, blasting into the stratosphere. Joined by noble knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor, with great hair), Jack scrambles up the stalks to save fair Isabelle, soon running head-on into the armor-plated giants. Led by double-headed Fallon (Bill Nighy and John "Crypt Keeper" Kassir), the beasts mobilize an attack, while Roderick attempts to game the circumstances to capture the throne.
Cutting large-scale battles with small-scale trickery (watch for Elmont's daring escape from a crispy puff pastry), Jack gets action right, and the energy exchanged between Hoult and Tomlinson exudes youth and sincerity. There is an overreliance on CGI, but it never turns too Transformers-y; the kids won't recoil and their parents won't revolt.