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'Jack the Giant Slayer' review: Old-fashioned fun

Cook, voiced by Philip Philmar, in a scene

Cook, voiced by Philip Philmar, in a scene from "Jack the Giant Slayer." Photo Credit: AP

If you've seen the posters for "Jack the Giant Slayer," starring Nicholas Hoult as a teenage version of the title role, you might be wondering: Where are Jack's double-barreled shotguns? Does he have awesome martial-arts skills? A skintight leather jacket? Or at least a snarky attitude and a gift for withering one-liners?

Nope, he's just Jack, unmodernized and unironic, pretty much the same fellow you once read about, and "Jack the Giant Slayer" is the kind of old-fashioned, entertaining fantasy-adventure you once saw regularly in theaters.

It's fun and fast-moving, family-friendly but never pandering, funny but never jokey. It's the rare kids' movie that adults will be glad they chaperoned.

The plot hasn't changed much, but new wrinkles and ideas freshen the familiar tale. Instead of one giant, there's an army of them grumbling up in sky-high Gantua, peering down hungrily at ye olde kingdom of Cloister. When the inevitable beanstalk appears -- no spindly reed, but an earth-ripping tornado of vegetation -- Jack climbs it to save the runaway Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson).

Hoult and Tomlinson are attractive, if not exactly charismatic, but the real fun comes from the supporting cast. Stanley Tucci sneers nastily as a nobleman with outsize ambitions, Ewan McGregor cuts a gallant figure as the knight Elmont and a motion-captured Bill Nighy turns the giant General Fallon into a worthy foe. (Kudos to John Kassir as the general's squawking second head.)

"Jack the Giant Slayer" doesn't quite feel magical -- it has more smarts than heart -- but it runs like clockwork thanks to an imaginative script (co-written by Christopher McQuarrie) and pitch-perfect direction from Bryan Singer (both of "The Usual Suspects").

It's scary in just the right measure, funny whenever possible and almost entirely free of modern fairy-tale "updates."

What, no wise-quacking golden goose? Now that's a twist.

PLOT A teenage farm boy climbs a magic beanstalk to save a princess. RATING PG-13 (some slightly gruesome moments)

CAST Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci


BOTTOM LINE A refreshingly old-fashioned fantasy-adventure -- scary, funny, not too mushy and thoroughly entertaining.


Acting a tall order for these four guys

They might be giants: These four actors (well, to be fair, two were NBA players) rank among the tallest performers on the big screen.

Richard Kiel -- The 7-foot, 2-inch actor has built a long career out of playing tree-scraping characters, but none more memorable than the ultra-menacing Jaws in the James Bond thrillers "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977) and "Moonraker" (1979).

Kevin Peter Hall -- The late 7-foot, 2-inch actor (he died in 1991 at age 36) was best known as the title character in the first two films in the "Predator" franchise and as Harry in "Harry and the Hendersons" (1987).

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- The 7-foot, 2-inch NBA legend has many movie and TV credits on his resumé, the most famous being his undercover co-pilot in the disaster-movie spoof "Airplane!" (1980).

Wilt Chamberlain -- At 7-feet, 1-inch, the only NBA player to score 100 points in a game is the runt of this quartet. He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fantasy "Conan the Destroyer" (1984), playing Bombaata, the captain of the queen's guard.

-- Andy Edelstein


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