Hollywood continues its love affair with updating classic fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Zero Dark Thirty) with this supercharged rendition of the tale about a straw-spinning gnome.

Nicolas Cage (Season of the Witch) stars as Rumpelstiltskin in this kick-ass re-telling under the direction of Hobbitastic director Peter Jackson.  Jackson has expanded the tale to an ample 228 minutes, giving plenty of time for the backstory of Rumple’s dad Umple Stiltskin (a scary Christopher Walken).  Umple first learns the family trademark trick of spinning straw into gold by a painstaking learning process under the tutelage of eccentric alchemist Tudolbach the Black (Ian McKellan).  Walken brings his customary intensity to the role (‘How long do I have to spin this crap?’).

Umple and Tudolbach go on a long, crisis-ridden journey to meet the King of the Slavering Worms, a hideous creature (Andy Serkis) who tells the tragic tale of how the Slavering Worms lost the lease on their long term worm hole through the mismanagement of the untrustworthy, unscrupulous worm financier Wormcoin (Sasha Baron Cohen).  Look for Wormcoin’s hilarious ‘Curl Round the Coins’ song and dance in the cobweb-ridden WormLair.

The film really takes off in the third hour when the tale of Rumple takes center stage.  Rumple laments the origin of his name (stemming from his tendency to get out of bed without combing his hair or changing his sleepwear for a shirt and slacks).  He goes through an extended stretch of therapy, trying to overcome the inferiority complex brought on by the teasing kids at school.  (Look for Elijah Wood in a miniaturized flashback role as Tubby Hoarsevoice).  Rumple soon falls headlong into a torrid romance with his therapist, the Ice Doctor.  The romance only ends when Rumple sees the Ice Doctor’s beautiful sister Simpie (Jennifer Lawrence) getting into her beat-up Pontiac and follows her on his fiery, souped-up Segway to her family home at a farmhouse in rural Montana.

The farm is about to be taken over by a corporate multinational headed by greedy tycoon Temple Kingley (John Goodman).  Desperate to avoid the depredations of the conglomerate, the farmer frantically claims that only his daughter has the talent to spin straw into gold, locking her into a hay-filled silo overnight to prove it.  Simpie, of course, has no such knowledge, and is panicking, but then just grows baffled when Rumple shows up.  Cage, as Rumple, makes an unnerving display of frantically turning all the straw into gold, running manically, sweating, barking orders at his invisible minion helpers and generally exulting in a frenzied alchemical workout.

Temple Kingley locks Simpie away for a second night, hoping for a repeat performance.   But here the movie departs from the traditional tale, as Rumple shows up with a bazooka, lasciviously kidnaps Simpie, rips his shirt off and goes on a shooting rampage, attacking all the livestock in the general vicinity.  To end the slaughter, Simpie must discover Rumple’s real name, which she does by hacking into his personal Spotify account.

Cage is at his furious best as Rumple, delivering throat-scouring battle cries as he decimates one Holstein after another.  The sight of his 3D-rendered veins popping from his forehead is alone worth the price of admission.  Lawrence runs the gamut from coy would-be straw-spinner to tempestuous fairy tale vixen.  Watch for the sultry scene where she uses her crimson lingerie to get Rumple to nearly reveal his long held secret.  Finally, while the presence of the diaphanous Elf Queen near the end of the film is nearly inexplicable, it’s always good to see Bjork in a suitable role.

While Rumpelstiltskin purists may protest that there is no livestock slaughter, no corporate takeover and no sultry seduction scene in the original tale, if they turn up their noses at this blockbuster they’ll miss out on the excitement Jackson brings to the tale, including the overpowering avalanche that nearly capsizes the steamship Longhorn as it docks in Ecuador.  Recommended to action-loving fairy tale fans everywhere!

 

Be sure to check out my collection of ‘screamingly funny’ sci-fi tales in Space Command and the Planets of Doom: http://amzn.to/atEZo9

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