Thursday, April 04, 2013

ewan mcgregor and jack the giant slayer

Ewan McGregor is not the star of Jack the Giant Slayer, but he is what I remember most about the movie. It was actually kind of a schizophrenic viewing experience. The live action, with the charming McGregor, the always fun-to-watch Ian McShane as the king, the dastardly evil king's advisor Roderick, played by Stanley Tucci, and Jack, played by the all-grown-up and handsome Nicholas Hoult (can you believe this is the same kid from About A Boy?), are undeniably the best parts of the movie.

The CGI giants that Jack and his pals are up against, however, are unremittingly ugly, unpleasant, and un-involving to watch. So much hard work for such a poor return. I would have much preferred to see Bill Nighy, who plays the main giant, General Fallon, as himself, blown up with the aid of computers to a giant size, than what we were given — his horribly animated counterpart. It's hard to believe that director Bryan Singer, who has ably balanced live action and special effects/animation in the three previous X-Men movies (X-Men, X2, X-Men First Class) would let such miserable-looking giants get past the drawing board stage.

Fee, fi, fo, fum — Yuk, yukky, yukkier, and yukkiest
But back to Ewan McGregor. As the king's top knight, Elmont, McGregor has a blast, whether twirling his waxed moustache or being captured and rolled up in a giant's pastry. As I watched him in Jack the Giant Slayer I realized that McGregor truly has the best shit-eating grin in movies. His larger-than-life enthusiasm, which he carries from role to role, is just infectious.

I'm no fan of the more recent Star Wars flicks, but McGregor's young Obi Wan Kenobi was easily the least embarrassing performance of the trilogy. I prefer watching McGregor in the more enjoyable, but incredibly cheesy science-fiction flick The Island, where he and Scarlett Johansson discover that their perfect world may not really be that wonderful after all — they are clones whose owners want them to exist solely for use as "spare parts." Whether playing a junkie in Trainspotting or a smarmy suitor in Emma, McGregor is always irresistible. His 500-watt smile and winning performance in Moulin Rouge, whether he is speaking or singing, steals the movie away from his co-star Nicole Kidman. All of the other actors, sets and trappings in the over-the-top production just can't compare.

I dare you to name an actor with a better smile
McGregor can dial down his grin when necessary. In Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream he plays Colin Farrell's smarter (?) brother, trying desperately to change his circumstances for the better, even if the way out of his current situation includes murder. In Roman Polanski's excellent Ghost Writer he is a more diffident sort — quiet, lurking around the edges of the movie until he realizes that the book he is ghost writing may not only put him in the spotlight, but in actual danger.

One of Hollywood's most hardworking actors, McGregor is in many movies that are worth checking out: The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Beginners, Miss Potter, Big Fish, Young Adam, Down with Love, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine. Is his latest, Jack the Giant Slayer, worth checking out? If you can focus on the actors and are not too put off by the video-game-reject-looking giants, it can be a fun diversion. And Ewan McGregor's grin helps a lot.

Smiles all around — Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Nicholas Hoult bid adieu to some pesky giants

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