The BFG review
What do the stories of Charlie & and the Chocolate Factory, James & the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox have in common? They were all written by the late Roald Dahl. This children’s author specialized in finding magic within a modern world. He understood that children could be just as adult while the adults can be just as childish given the situation. He also understood that the world, no matter how pretty it is, can be a mean place and figured that children can take a lot of scary imagery. Stories like these have made reading fun for kids that wanted to feel like they were just as important as their parents were.
Today’s movie The BFG is another Roald Dahl adaptation that I’m surprised hasn’t been made yet. I remember it being made as an animated movie (that I still recall that we never finished due to a parent complaint of the scary images despite being rated G). If this was going to be given a live action treatment, then I’m glad Steven Spielberg is in charge, as I’ve wanted him to give family films another try. E.T. and Hook showed that he understood children, so let’s see if the magic still there in The BFG.
Within a London orphanage, a young girl Sophie (played by Ruby Barnhill). She can’t sleep, so she keeps herself busy by reading an occasionally looking out into the night. During one look behind the curtain, she spots a giant. The giant takes her, out of the city, into the countryside, before they end up in another realm called “Giant Country”. She’s taken inside a cottage where Sophie begs not to be eaten. The giant (played by Mark Rylance) reveals he’s a giant that refuses to eat people and in fact introduces himself as the BFG (Big Friendly Giant).
Sophie finds that the BFG is responsible for catching dreams in Dream country in order to spread to various people. She also sees the other giants, which make the BFG a runt compared to their fifty-foot height. These other giants are responsible for recent disappearances of other children that have gone missing (and are hinted to have been eaten as well). Sophie decides that the only person that can help is the Queen, so the BFG mixes up elements to hopefully make into a dream that will convince the Queen to help stop the other giants.
It’s nice to see Spielberg return to making family movies. Is The BFG the right movie for him? I’m a bit mixed on this as he has plenty of things done well and other parts not as well. I’ll say that the casting on both the BFG and Sophie are really good. Spielberg has a talent for using children actors well and Ruby Barnhill is just as good as Elliot from E.T. or Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun. Thanks to the magic of motion capture, Mark Rylance brings a lot of life to this giant. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, the effects on the giant are really good and will probably last well after future effects overtake it.
It’s a good thing that both characters are interesting, because this family movie is surprisingly dialogue heavy. Not that it’s a bad thing, though I think most kids going in with their parents were expecting something more action orientated. Much of the big action doesn’t happen until the last thirty minutes, but the rest is full of the whimsy you’d expect out of a Spielberg family movie. What’s lacking is a flowing story, which is one of the few times when a book’s context needed more expansion within it’s transition to the big screen. Had we gotten more of an insight on the land of the giants and how they get around on the Earth, I’d probably like this more.
I’ll give this three and a half snozzcumbers out of five. This is one of Spielberg’s weaker movies, though it still remains a good story for kids. I’d say that this is for older children, like at least eight and above. Those under will probably see The BFG as slow and boring. This Roald Dahl story does enough that families will be entertained by this, though whether it has rewatch value will be up to the viewer. I’d say give it a watch and see if this film is a giant in your mind.