I can only imagine the early production meetings... "guys, we need a storyline that'll let us show off some really cool new visual effects, something that everyone will know but that we can bring into the modern era." "Okay, but it better not cost a mil to get the book rights this time." "Okay, okay. Hey! How about Jack and the Beanstalk?" "Wait, are we talking a cartoon?" "No, live action. Big, epic, scary, in your face, even some splatter!" "Fine. Show me a script. I'll call Singer, I think he owes us one..."
The film Jack the Giant Slayer is actually a fun, modern and, yes, visual effects-heavy take on the Jack and the Beanstalk fable. You know the story, the simple boy Jack who trades his family's horse and cart for some magic beans that grow into a beanstalk that reaches far into the sky. He climbs up, rescues the princess, slays the giant, slides down, chops the beanstalk down before the rest of the giants invade. Cue happy ending.
The problem with this visually sumptuous remake isn't the storyline with its updates to the original fable, and it's not the performances, which are uniformly competent and occasionally quite entertaining, it's that director Bryan Singer couldn't decide if they were making an aggressive, violent adult movie in the vein of Game of Thrones and The Hobbit, or whether they were making a family friendly movie that would have earned the MPAA "moments of mild action and suspense" label. Instead, he made both, and it's a bit of a mess as a result.
Case in point: the family in front of us in the theater didn't pay attention to the fact that Jack the Giant Slayer is actually rated PG-13 (for intense action violence and frightening images) and as a result the two little girls (around 8 or 10) ended up on their parents laps through much of the film. Yeah, it's that kind of family film. Not really very pre-adolescent friendly at all.