There's an odd renaissance of fairy tales in popular entertainment, and we're not talking about the old Disney classics. On television there are the dual worlds of fantasy and reality in ONCE UPON A TIME or the grimmer GRIMM or another much less interesting take on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
In movies the trend gave us two versions of the Snow White legend last year: the comic MIRROR, MIRROR with Julia Roberts as a ditzy and vain queen and the dramatic and exciting drama SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN with Kristen Stewart leading an army against the malevolent and magnificent Chalize Theron as a queen who sustains her beauty with the blood of virgins. Not for the kiddies.
And this year we have a sumptuous 3D take on Frank L. Baum's classic Oz stories in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, which serves as a prequel to the Judy Garland classic THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). In this tale a carnival magician named Oscar is whisked from a black and white Kansas to the color-saturated Land of Oz, where he is expected to save the country by killing the Wicked Witch of the West (Rachel Weiss in the only interesting performance in the film). James Franco as Oz and Michelle Williams as Glenda the Good Witch don't have much to do but react to flying baboons and Winkies. The movie itself is gorgeous to look at, especially in 3D with set design and costumes that are the best kind of eye candy. But eye candy alone do not a classic make, especially if you are fond of THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Surprisingly, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is a far more entertaining adventure which keeps the action almost non-stop and manages to build a credible love story between farmer boy Jack and the Princess Isabelle. Along the way we have impressive special effects, magnificent castles both below and in the sky as well as some comically repulsive giants whose personal grooming such as nose-picking, ghastly teeth, and cannibal tendencies will thrill the boys in the audience. Newcomers Nicholas Hoult as Jack and Eleanor Tomlinson are attractive and ardent in their heroics and growing romance. All in all, a far better family outing than the rather bland OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.