Today: February 22, 2024

Jack And The Beanstalk

The magic of the Jim Henson Company and a well-loved fairytale of terror and adventure: a recipe for an extraordinary and exciting children’s film.

The magic of the Jim
Henson Company and a well-loved fairytale of terror and adventure: a recipe for an extraordinary and
exciting children’s film.
Unfortunately, Jack
and the Beanstalk: The Real Story

does not live up to everything it promises.

Wealthy businessman, Jack Robinson (Matthew Modine) is haunted by a family curse, in which none of the
men in his family live past the age of forty. Following the discovery of some very unusual giant-sized
bones at one of his work’s building sites and an encounter with Ondine (Mia Sara), a mysterious woman from a
strange world, he soon discovers why none of his family and ancestors have
survived. Jack must learn the
truth about his family’s past and right all wrongs in order to save both
himself and the magical world of giants.

Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story is directed by Brian Henson and it certainly cannot be said that he does not have
the imagination of his father – in fact he has an incredible artistic
talent. He is a director, producer,
special effects artist and accomplished puppeteer, operating complicated
puppets such as Audrey II in Little Shop
of Horrors
and Hoggle in Labyrinth,
as well as performing the role of Jack Pumpkinhead in Return to Oz. However
it seems a real pity that he has not really brought this talent to Jack and the
Beanstalk. Instead the effects are
poor and the whole thing seems contrived, with the giants letting us know they
are giants by speaking veeery slooowly.
Any child today is still captivated by the magic of the Muppets and indeed by Labyrinth from
1986, but this film, made in 2001, is very unlikely to engage them at all. It was made as a two-part television
movie, but it just comes across as a very dated one – well beyond its years.

In typical television movie form, there is an abundance of
amazing actors in this film and this absolves the confusion and ennui of the
odd storyline to an extent. Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Attenborough, Daryl
Hannah
, Honor Blackman, Jon Voight and Jim Carter make an appearance, as well as a young James Corden playing the part of the
giant’s son. Bill Barretta (the voice of many Muppets) has the makings of a
brutish, booming giant as Thunderdell but unfortunately this is never fully
realised.

Fair enough, this film does have ‘the real story’ in the
title, so you give it a chance in the hope that the mix of reality and myth
will be a happy one. This film is
true to parts of the original fairytale with the magical harp, the goose that
lays the golden eggs and the beanstalk itself and you do think at one point
that the film will become the fairytale you are hoping for. However, it then strays in to a very
bizarre territory that seems like it has come from the mind of an adult who is
determined to exorcise the demons of their childhood by omitting the best and scary
parts of the fairytale. Surely the
essence of a fairytale is a simultaneous mix of terror and adventure. After all, what we remember most about
these stories from childhood are the scary parts, when we dared to have one
last peek at the illustration of that terrifying giant in our fairytale book,
just to get that feeling of fear in the pit of our stomach. However, the whole premise in this film
of the ‘real story’ is actually pretty tedious and a lifetime away from the
giant’s thunderous ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’ in the fairytale.

Now, at a time when the fairytale is a very prominent
feature in the world of film, with the likes of Snow White and the Huntsman, Red
Riding Hood
and the soon to come, Jack
the Giant Killer
, Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story will not sit well. It could have been so much more but just has not reached its
potential. It is oh so
disappointing that the company behind the timeless delight that is Labyrinth
have not managed to bring this one to life. It should be exciting and return you to that time when you
had your head buried in a book, willing Jack to reach the bottom of that
beanstalk before the giant got the chance to grind his bones to make his
bread. But, you are better off
returning to your childhood Ladybird books with the terrifying illustrations
and your own imagination if you want this fairytale to come alive.

Misha Wallace - Social Media Editor

From the age of 4, Misha Wallace became transfixed by movies like Halloween and The Birds from behind the couch, unbeknownst to her family. This has developed in to an obsession with fantasy and horror films (and a considerable number of cheesy 80s and 90s flicks – but she will not be judged). If she was a character in a film she'd be the girl at the end of a horror movie, doused in blood but grinning victorious. Email: misha.wallace@filmjuice.com or find her any time of the day or night on FilmJuice social media.

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