Jack and the Beanstalk

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 29, 2015

Aggressively artificial, with green screens and models that defiantly don’t balance or convince. Starts to make sense when that bean seller, who up top dresses like a very ugly princess, appears to mug and cavort with an abandon positively abstract. (Gender ambiguities laden; a reflection of the diverse production family, and their feelings of acceptance for one another?) Jean Stapleton shows her legs and makes Jim Broadbent faces. Really funny. “I hate Scotsmen. Especially small ones.” It seems to me that Elliott Gould is kind of wasted.

These stories, or rather a number of their adaptations, can be a bit twee. That’s a down side. A balancing upside, though you have to think about it to access it, is that the telling of the stories is just as important as the stories themselves. That quality, that profound point runs all through the classic texts of children’s literature. (Think for instance of H.C. Andersen’s device of constantly addressing his implied or perceived reader. Stories = storytelling, or vice versa.) There’s a further wrinkle, a further frisson when the story is acted out on film. The film-hostile don’t tend to like this, or even realize it. They should! This is a lot what imaginative play among bright and spirited children looks like. It’s certainly what it looks like when bright, spirited, kid-attentive adults enter the fray. Not quite or fully faithful to the source? Of course not! It’s not a liberty, and certainly not an infidelity, when the story now belongs to you.