Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jack and the Beanstalk (1974)

The complicated relationship between American and Japanese animation companies has generated some offbeat hybrid projects, of which this children’s movie is an extremely minor example. Adapted from the classic fairy tale, the film was made in Japan, complete with a Japanese soundtrack, but an English-language soundtrack was also recorded, with Westerners supervising the work. Columbia Pictures released the English-language version in the U.S., and while Columbia’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk is ostensibly a Western movie, it contains odd traces of its national origin. For instance, the movie’s princess character is drawn in an amine/manga style complete with gigantic saucer eyes. Further, the film’s annoying music includes chirpy melodies one might expect to encounter in a proper Japanimation offering. Generally speaking, however, the movie is a straight-ahead riff on the familiar saga, with a few inconsequential elements added in to prolong the narrative. (For example, the aforementioned princess.) After his family’s cow stops producing milk, young peasant famer Jack makes things worse by trading the cow to a con man for “magic beans.” Upon hitting the ground, the beans sprout a giant stalk that leads to a kingdom in the clouds. Jack climbs the stalk and enters the kingdom, falls for the princess, tries to avoid being eaten by a witch and her gigantic son (who, sadly, never shouts “fee-fi-fo-fum”), and eventually wins the day. Yawn. Excepting the few Eastern touches, nothing the least bit original or useful was added to the source material for this incarnation, and even though the animation is generally satisfactory, the character development, design, and plotting are so lifeless as to induce complete audience boredom. Jack and the Beanstalk is no more infantile than other animated features of the same era, but neither is it entertaining, memorable, or novel. In short, it ain’t worth the climb.

Jack and the Beanstalk: LAME


Unknown said...

Excuse me, Mr.Hanson, I do happen to enjoy the original Japanese version, Jakku to Mamme No Ki, as I shown my whole family this. Which version are you talking about in the review, this or the English dub? I've got nothing against you, just curious.

By Peter Hanson said...

This is a review of the English-language version. No opinion is offered about the Japanese version.