Saturday, December 8, 2007
Time for another family-friendly holiday treat from Barry Mahon - the genius filmmaker who brought us THE WONDERFUL LAND OF OZ (previously reviewed by Danny). This time we have a wonderfully inept retelling of the storybook classic, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK from 1970.
The movie opens as we meet Jack and his poor white trash family: his mother who looks like a cross between Nannette Fabray and Jean Stapleton and dresses like an orange pilgrim and his greedy and trampy-looking sister Rosemary – who is complaining that no one will EVER want to marry her because she has no dowry. Mom reassures Rosemary that since she's pretty good at doing housework that eventually someone will want her. Thanks for the positive re-inforcement, Mom. Really, thanks.
Jack, meanwhile is a teenage gay-in-training, much like UGLY BETTY's nephew Justin - and he dresses in a plethora of snazzy outfits featuring wide brown stripes and suede with fringes. He's really working the "Peter Brady during puberty" look. The family is distraught cause Papa is dead and they've apparently squandered everything that he left them. Oh, not everything. There were some things that Jack's dad invented like a mechanical goose that can lay golden eggs, a talking golden harp and some other golden crap - but somehow someone stole these things, depriving Rosemary of her oft-mentioned dowry.
Mom then announces it's time to sell the family cow because it gives very little milk these days. So, rather than doing it herself, she enlists Jack to take the cow to town to sell it. Jack then sings a wretched song, looking as if he's as bored as I was.
In a town where the backdrop looks like it was painted by a junior high theater class, we meet Honest John - Used Cow Salesman. Honestly. For some reason Honest John (to be hereafter referred to as "HoJo") dresses like Little Lord Fauntleroy while all the townsfolk got their duds from the 1970 JC Penney catalog. Then HoJo "sings" some terrible song and gets Jack to accept a handful of "magic" beans instead of cash for the cow. HoJo then proceeds sells the cow to Cat Stevens for $30.
Meanwhile, back home, Rosemary is still complaining about NEVER getting married. Oh shut the FUCK up already! When Jack returns home he tells them about his great magic bean deal with HoJo and Mom and Rosemary basically call him a stupid asshole - which he is.
Next we see HoJo walking around some cave trying to decide where to hide his "Used Cow" sign. This goes on for about five minutes until Jack and his sister, obviously spelunking, come across the cave and his sign. Then they go home. Huh?
A cuckoo clock on fast-forward tells us that time has passed. Mom - still in her orange gown from yesterday - opens up the dining room shudders to reveal a bad oil-painting of a landscape! Rosemary then shows up in her same clothes from yesterday...eww. Mom's so pissed at Jack and the whole bean situation that she chucks them out the window- where they instantly sprout into a big vine made up of fake ivy from Joann's Fabrics. Jack of course decides to climb it while singing another dreadful song - not even noticing the painting of a castle behind him. Then he turns, sees it and decides to head towards it - in a manner that could be described as "a spastic shuffle". Was it a long distance to travel or was the cloud-cover ground all sticky? We'll never know. He repeats this odd way of "walking" several times throughout the movie. Making me scream "Huh?"!
Meanwhile, Mom beats herself up for scolding Jack and letting him go up the beanstalk. Too late, Mom.
So Jack makes his way to the castle, opens the door and sees a kindly woman cleaning up. Then we see the "giant" - who's really just a Silver Lake Bear - a chubby, hairy guy who shouts a lot to get attention. The giant (to be hereafter referred to as "The Bear") sits in an oversized chair, and uses oversize utensils - making him seem rather small. Wait... shouldn't his hand props be SMALL to make him look BIG? Oh never mind. Another big "Huh?" Oh then he sings a horrendous version of "Fee Fi Fo Fum" for the first of three times.
So after he eats his meal, his "wife" brings The Bear his golden goose (a papier-mâché blob about the size of a chicken). It then lays him a golden egg! Jack decides this must be his father's invention and steals it as The Bear takes a nap. When Jack carries the goose it's suddenly a turkey-size papier-mâché blob, meaning that the giant isn't really that much bigger than Jack. Jack slowly climbs down the stalk in the first of several long uncomfortable shots that seem to linger on his very tight, form-fitting trousers. When The Bear awakes he announces that "if I find him - I'll crush his balls" - or at least that's what I heard.
The family welcomes Jack home and the goose lays a golden egg for them. Yippee! It's like winning Lotto...with a stolen ticket. Meanwhile, HoJo tells Rosemary he's starting a new business - selling Magic Beans. She tells him to get lost cause she's now engaged to be married. Huh? Then a couple who look like Joan Collins and Sonny Bono refuse to buy HoJo's beans. We then learn that HoJo gets his beans cheaply and upsells 'em! Boo! Hiss!
We next meet Rosemary's hunky boyfriend, who first tells her that her lack of a dowry doesn't matter - but it would help if she were rich because then they could buy an inn and run it together. So they send Jack back up to steal more gold shit from The Bear.
This time The Bear is eating fried "Creepy Crawlers". After his meal, his poor wife brings him his magic harp, which sings to him as he counts his gold. What the heck does he spend his gold on anyway? Are there any other people up in giant land? Where does his wife shop? Costco? Big Lots? Giant Depot?
Jack makes it back home with The Bear's gold in time for a party - Mom's gone all Martha - serving finger sandwiches, punch and a Red Velvet wedding cake. Everyone is dressed in fancy pajamas and nightgowns, as all the townsfolk dance to accordian music. It's like THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW meets the birthday party scene from PINK FLAMINGOS. Meanwhile, The Bear is rigging a trap for Jack, in case he ever comes back to steal something else!
Time passes and Rosemary and her husband (?) are discussing whether or not to serve liquor at their bar. Huh? Meanwhile, HoJo continues to piss off the townsfolk - so they decide to have a meeting about getting rid of him. It's about time, people. More time passes, and we learn that the Inn isn't doing well because there's no "live entertainment". So Rosemary and this other girl get a plastic cup and fill it with - oh wait. Wrong video.
So, finally Jack decides to grab the damn singing harp to help out his miserable thankless bitch of a sister once more. Then HoJo gives a boring soliloquy about something and that's the last we see of him. Jack manages to grab the harp, but The Bear wakes up and starts climbing down the vine...oh no!!! Will the townfolks meet The Bear face-to-face?
No way - cause Jack runs out, chops the vine down and The Bear falls to his death. Then the entire cast crawls out of the woodwork for a song about "happy endings"...and Jack mentions that he fells bad for the wife because she happened to "hook up with the wrong guy". Huh?
Wow - did I mention this was only 63 minutes long? Worth watching if only to see how misguided an attempt at modernizing a classic fairy tale with no budget, painfully bad songs and first-time non-actors could turn out. It's THAT bad. 5 out of 10 "Huhs?"