Thursday, May 20, 2010

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (2010) - an uplifting story of a boy and his beans (supplemented with Gilbert Gottfried and some ninjas)

comic genius Gilbert Gottfried branches out with a dramatic, Golden Globe-worthy turn as some sort of dandy Jew-chicken

u may have noticed a dove seal on the occasional "family" DVD release (pictured left). The seal comes courtesy of "The Dove Foundation", a collective that promotes the notion of "family-friendly entertainment". Supposedly, their standards are based on "Judeo/Christian" values, as, god forbid, someone might have their retard beliefs shaken while watching a piece of fiction.

For starters, can we drop the word "Judeo" from the phrase "Judeo-Christian" already? We all know that these groups that expound on "Judeo-Christian values" are hardcore Christian groups whose knowledge of Jewish culture is limited to a host of irrational stereotypes (and the occasional bagel sandwich). Look no further than the casting of national treasure Gilbert Gottfried as a kvetching goose that lays golden eggs (I guess the goose and the gander are indeed interchangeable). Apparently, the Jews hoard their fortune at all costs, resorting to jamming gold up their asses if need be.

This dove seal has found its way onto many a "family" flick, including the anti-evolution doc Expelled. Apparently, parents don't want to have to expose their children to facts and shit. If I had a child, I would rather force them to watch a Saw 1-6 marathon then expose them to Ben Stein's little retard opus. Then again, maybe there's a good reason why I don't have any kids.

Regardless, Jack and the Beanstalk is surprisingly free of any right-wing Christian propaganda, and even has a Ken Loach-ian character in the form of Jack's mom (played by Peggy Bundy), who loses her job because of a bunch of elven scabs, and later chains herself to the beanstalk to protest a mob of lumberjacks who plan on hacking it down out of panic and fear. This shows a gentle subversive slant to the material, along with little tweaks of other fairy tales, and the usual pop culture allusions (like when Christopher Lloyd is teaching a class with a diagram of the flux capacitor behind him on a chalkboard).

However, there are a couple of scenes that give me pause in terms what they might teach children. When a real goose turns into Gilbert Gottfried wearing half a chicken suit, much is made of his new opposable thumbs (he even uses them to raise the roof in celebratory fashion at one point), clearly pointing out the important value distinction between humans and other animals. In other words, animals are a bunch of thumbless asshats who deserve to be barbecued.

Also, Chloe Moretz, as Jack's ass kicking partner in this adventure, pummels a group of pseudo-ninjas in a pillow fight (I guess you gotta maintain that G rating at all costs). This hardly presents an ideal picture of how to deal with foreign cultures, and paints Asians as a bunch of pussies that gang up on an 11-year-old girl and still get their clocks cleaned. Then again, considering both Jack and the Beanstalk and Kick-Ass, Chloe Moretz might just be that much of a total badass. I'll have to remember not to piss her off, lest I want to end up with a shattered kneecap and a broken crotch. As an aside, I was also pretty offended by Chevy Chase's check cashing cameo, though I doubt this would ruin the mind of an innocent child (or an evil asshole child, for that matter).

While substantially removed from its source, Jack and the Beanstalk doubles as both a worthwhile updating of this timeless tale and a surprisingly potent vehicle for Gilbert Gottfried and his immortal blend of joyful misanthropy and Jewy awkwardness. It not only appeals to children, but also contains little smartass references to appeal to adults (as a half child/half adult, I get it from both ends).

In the end, I guess these timeless stories have run into a problem, in that children stopped reading years ago, and filmed fairy tales can date pretty quickly. Therefore, these stories need to be remade every couple of years, in order to keep passing on important life lessons to children (including the one about book reading being a horror best avoided).

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