You know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? Jack is dumb and poor and trades his cow for a handful of magic beans that his mother throws out the window and in the mornign a beanstalk has grown to the sky, and so Jack climbs it and steals a whole bunch of stuff from them and then he cuts it down and the giant dies. Well, let’s rewrite this a bit. First, the giants have attacked the world once and were driven off by a king wearing a magic crown and have remained above the clouds for a really long time. But now, due to a couple of silly mistakes and the scheming of the nasty Roderck (Stanley Tucci), there is the chance for the giants to return. It ends up being up to the kings men, notably Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and Crawe (Eddie Marsan), helped by Jack (Nicholas Hoult) who was saving Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) to kick the giants’ butts.
I totally should have loved this more. Apart from Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Hoult and Eddie Marsan, all of whose performances I generally really enjoy, there was Ewen Bremner, Ian McShane and Warwick Davis. The story should have been good enough to carry me along. Yet there was something lacking. Something that I just didn’t love. Was it that yet again, there was only one female character? And that while she had a bit of personality, essentially she was just another princess waiting to be rescued? Or did it all just feel a bit forced?
This is the third in a kind of loose trilogy of end-of-days films made by director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s a trilogy without recurring characters, but Pegg and Frost end up pitted against some kind of mega threat; Sean of the Dead had zombies, Hot Fuzz had a sinister Neighbourhood Watch Alliance and this has robots. Sort of. Feauxbots. Nobots. Something like that.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) is pretty much the most annoying person in the world – a guy in his late thirties who has never been able to beat his best night ever, an incompleted pub crawl with his mates when he was eighteen. So, he gets the gang back together; Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Andy Knightley (Nick Frost). It would end up being just a pretty bad night with the lads until they discover the town’s dark secret.
There was a lot in this film to love. Simon Pegg playing the most awful character ever; a group of nearing middle-aged men attempting to beat a power they don’t understand all the time getting ever more drunk; Martin Freeman and his creepy, creepy forced smile. It didn’t quite have the awesome hilarity and impact of Sean of the Dead, but it was a lot of fun. And I kind of like all the not-too-obvious –but-at-the-same-time-not-too-hard-to-miss things for the fans – like the names and the way they relate to the characters. Or the reappearance of many favourite actors in bit parts.