Jack the Giant Slayer is a non-film. In two years, people will see $2 Blu-rays of it on Black Friday and all but the most clueless grandmothers will pass it by. I stayed awake through my screening (with difficulty) and it still feels like a benign dream I can barely remember.
You can tell a lot about what Jack and the Giant Slayer does wrong from its opening scenes. The film treats us to not one but two animated prologues (or maybe you could see it as one animated epilogue that gets weirdly interrupted) which not only saddle us with an overly complicated backstory right off the bat, but also offer audiences a chance to ponder the minuscule difference between "cartoon" CG giants of the prologue and "real" CG giants to come later. That was a bad idea.
This prologue is awkwardly fractured largely because Bryan Singer insists on framing it around a children's tale being told not just to a young Jack as we might expect, but to the film's young princess as well. Singer cross-cuts between Jack and his future bride in an effort to recall some of that fast paced and hyper connected The Fifth Element editing style. It doesn't work. Jack the Giant Slayer also tries to cultivate its own in-house catchphrases. Those don't work either.
So before this film has even really had a chance to get going, it has already overloaded us with exposition, confused us, and failed at being charming, one of the harder failures to rebound from.
Bryan Singer's never been much of a humorist, and here he appears desperate to mimic a tone he doesn't understand. He's essentially made a live action-ish Dreamworks animation film, but not even one of the newer, good ones.
Structurally, Jack the Giant Slayer's a chunky movie. It spends most of its time crawling along but sometimes runs into brief scenes of activity. The first part of the film is all about the big beanstalk and how a bunch of guys climb it. When they get to the top, it's all about the land of the giants, which is basically just a rocky grassland with lots of giant faces carved into stone. Then the film ends after a big tug of war match (literally) between humans and giants. If you're still tempted to see this one for some reason, know that Fee, Fi, Fo, and Fum are actually the names of four individual giants in the film. That should cure you.
Regarding the giants, if you've seen the trailer the only thing I can tell you that you don't already know is that they fart a lot and eat their boogers like a bunch of earthy Stephen King characters. The closest any of them come to having a personality is one guy with especially big hair. The two-headed giant who provides the film's main villain represents yet another of the film's big comedy missteps.
Speaking of which, there's a big thing that repeatedly happens with the giants where they take humans and make like they're going to do something super violent like bite their head off or rip them in half and the film arrhythmically cuts away, as though it were an R-rated gore fest edited for television. I'm not trying to say a film like this should be R-rated, but these weird cuts speak to Singer's seemingly blind stabs at tone. It looks like a mistake rather than a decision.
Nicholas Hoult is fine as Jack, but he's not really playing the character beyond simple archetype. Ewan McGregor plays his white knight role much like an overly caffeinated Obi Wan Kenobi (he even throws in a paraphrased "I have a bad feeling about this"). Stanley Tucci lets his prosthetic teeth do the acting for him (again). Ian McShane's character alternates between comically ineffectual and mildly heroic without rhyme or reason. The only real bright spot in the cast might be Trainspotting's Ewen Bremner as Tucci's overly giggly henchman, simply because his performance takes you so far out of the film it feels like breathing fresh air.
There are small, highly isolated islands of worth contained within Jack the Giant Slayer. The big giant fight at the end starts out exciting until Singer limits the whole battle to a tug of war match (again, literally). It's almost fun whenever Jack actually slays giants. He only kills a couple, but that's more than anyone else in the film, so I guess he wins his title on a technicality.
This is a movie to see on accident and for free. Or you could just miss it all together. Not one ounce of wit or enthusiasm went into the film, so I doubt it will mind when you forget it exists mere weeks from now.