Not one of the gems of the 'Fairy Tale Theatre' series, not one of the misfires either
There is a lot to like about the 'Faerie Tale Theatre' series. Many of their adaptations of various well-known and well-loved fairy tales are charming, clever and sometimes funny, a few even emotionally moving. 'Faerie Tale Theatre' puts its own magical spin on the best of the episodes while still capturing the essence of the stories, while also giving further enjoyments in seeing talented performers in early roles or in roles that are departures from their usual roles.
"Jack and the Beanstalk", as said in the review title, is not one of 'Fairy Tale Theatre's' gems (up to this point, "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Rapunzel" fared best"). It is also not one of the misfires, misfires are few in the series anyway and even the weaker episodes have enough to make them watchable, again up to this point all the episodes ranged to decent to great including the divisive "The Nightingale". It could have been better, but mostly "Jack and the Beanstalk" is a solid effort with enough heart, fun and charm to satisfy children and adults alike.
It could have been better. While mostly "Jack and the Beanstalk" looks good, the cow looks laughable, looking more like two or so people doing all the movements and such from inside a cheap-looking costume (whether that was the case is uncertain, but it did look that way to me), and the giant looks more like a stereotypical caveman.
Speaking of the giant, Elliot Gould didn't really do it for me. On paper he seemed an insane casting choice, but seeing as some performers in the same boat did a surprisingly decent or more job (including Mick Jagger in "The Nightingale") he deserved the benefit of the doubt. Gould was not particularly threatening here and plays the giant as too much of an idiot. A large part is to do with how the character was written, instead of menacing the giant is made out to act extremely dumb, in how he acts, looks and even speaks, which really dissipates any suspense or conflict. While most of the script is decent, there are a few instances where it gets a little silly and meanders.
However, mostly "Jack and the Beanstalk" looks fine for a series that wasn't made on a particularly high budget. The scenery and sets are quaintly picturesque, most of the costumes don't look that cheap and the beanstalk also looks pretty good. The music score is energetic, gentle and sometimes suspenseful.
While the script isn't perfect, there is mostly an appealing light-heartedness that on the most part doesn't go overboard. The story is fun and charming, and here there is richer development on Jack that gives the episode heart and gives Jack even more of a reason to do what he does here.
Casting-wise, only Gould doesn't work. Dennis Christopher is appealingly spirited and Katherine Helmond while with little to do is extremely good as the mother and makes her a real person. Mark Blankfield is entertaining in the narrator role and Jerry Hall can be briefly seen on the face of the harp. Jean Stapleton gets the scene-stealing honours however, her giantess enormously enjoyable.
On the whole, decent if not a gem. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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