“What would Dory do?” It’s a question Dory (Ellen DeGeneres)…
This is the first time we’ve seen Disney collaborate with Steven Spielberg. “The BFG” is a great big film. But, does the noteworthy collaboration deliver on the promise of bringing Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book to the screen? The short answer is: yes.
A combination of technology and storytelling successfully builds a world that audiences can delve in to with glee. “The BFG” is a darkish children’s fable and nothing is spared, cinematically, to relay all of its wonder and magic.
When a young orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) spots a giant on the streets surrounding her British orphanage one night, her life is changed. The giant, fearful that Sophie will tell others about him, plucks Sophie from her bed and takes her to Giant Country. She’s fearful at first, but that quickly changes when she realizes the giant (nicknamed “Runt” by his peers) is not out to eat her, as is the custom in Giant Country. She calls him “The Big Friendly Giant” or “BFG”.
“BFG” is played by the formidable Mark Rylance in a flawless motion-capture performance. He has a kind, if not dopey, face and a unique manner of speaking that includes words like “phizzwizard”, “chiddlers” and “dogswaggler.”
“BFG” is an avowed vegetarian, while the other giants in Giant Country are known to eat “human beans.” One of the lengthier action scenes comes when the giants accuse “BFG” of harboring a “human bean” in his house. They are intent on finding Sophie and eating her.
“BFG” is a dreamcatcher by trade and introduces Sophie to his magical method of catching dreams and then installing them in unsuspecting sleepers. His way of hiding in plain sight on the city streets while he’s working creates some artful scenes.
Humor is plentiful in “The BFG.” One of its funnier scenes uses potty humor and mass flatulence to provoke laughs. Because the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) and her Corgis are involved, it seems to work.
Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is one reason this film is so much fun to watch. Balancing the darkness of the tale with levity is managed well. The adapted screenplay, which turned out to be Melissa Mathison’s last (due to her death in 2015), reportedly remains true to Dahl’s source material. Mathison is the writer of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and has always had strong ties to Spielberg.
It’s Spielberg who may be the disappointment here. The pacing of “The BFG” is erratic and the story lumbers along, until the pace picks up when Sophie decides to go to the Queen to report the carnivorous giants in Giant Country. Spielberg takes nearly two hours to tell the tale, spending most of act one and two marveling at the world in which the giants live. The result is that we have little invested in Sophie and her outcome.
That being said, “The BFG” is still worth the journey. The filmmakers have done a good job of keeping the story light when needed. Children aged 6 and above will love this story. Those younger may find its darkness overwhelming. It is, after all, a tale of hungry, child-eating giants.
Fantasy/Adventure, Rated PG
Run time: 117-minutes
Photo credit: Disney
This review also appears on GaysWithKids.com