The BFG is a Massive Magical Experience
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by: Melissa Mathison
Based on The BFG by Roald Dahl
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader
Runtime: 117 minutes
Rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor
Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an insatiably curious insomniac orphan who, on one of her witching hour walks—which Sophie has firmly established is 3 A.M. — saw a very large cloaked figure carrying a trumpet sneaking through the streets. As soon as this giant realized he was caught, he promptly snatched Sophie from her bed through her window, and ran home to Giant Country, to keep his existence a secret. The brave Sophie should be terrified, kidnaped and imprisoned by a giant, but she is not, and soon learned that this Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), a friendly curator of dreams, tormented by his brother the evil, man-eating Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement). These giant bullies not only threaten BFG and Sophie, who they desperately want to eat, but a threat to all human-beans. It’s up to Sophie and The BFG to find a way to stop these evil giants for good.
The BFG is so endearingly, joyously, childlike it’s like slipping into the pages of a dog-eared book under the covers of your bed with a flashlight. Only a filmmaker like Steven Spielberg could pull this off without it becoming condescendingly saccharine a film. Maybe it was the combination of Roald Dahl’s universe and Melissa Mathison’s brilliant—and unfortunately final—adaptation that enabled Spielberg to direct a near perfect children’s film. No matter how you divide the credit, the result is the same, a movie that is not only immensely enjoyable and uplifting, but one that will endure as long as Roald Dahl’s books have.
Going into this film, I was afraid that the animated effects of the giants would be distracting. While they do appear to be somewhat cartoonish and animated they look consistent enough not to be a significant distraction. The motion capture technique used to create the giants imparted a very organic movement to the larger than life characters, which helped significantly when it came to the interactions between Sophie and BFG. I had concerns about these interactions, especially with a very young actor, but Ruby Barnhill managed to bridge the gap in convincingly earnest ways. Barnhill’s performance was fantastic, never seeming forced or unnatural in any way, which is a common problem with many very young performers.
This is a children’s film I enjoyed much more than many I have seen, or been forced to see in the past. It is one I will gladly enjoy again, and I may even laugh at the fart jokes again.