Roald Dahl is a wonderful writer. He has created such amazing pieces of work as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, as well as one of my favorite dark poems of all-time, “The Pig.” Meanwhile, EYG Hall of Famer Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors around helming such classics as Jaws, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Schlinder’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Putting these two icons together should create magic.
2016, we get The BFG. An adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel by Steven Spielberg. Unfortunately, it does not reach the level of expectation that these two names create. However, there is a certain charm to this movie.
Young orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) couldn’t sleep and was up wandering around the orphanage one night when she accidentally catches a glance at a giant. The giant, who would come to be called BFG (Mark Rylance), could not leave the girl to blab about what she had seen, so he took her from the orphanage back to Giant Land. Sophie thought he was going to eat her, but BFG laughed it off. See, he was a kind giant. BFG stood for Big Friendly Giant, a name given to him by another human who he had befriended.
Sophie and BFG bonded together until other, larger giants, who called BFG “Runt”, came around sniffing for the girl. These giants did eat “beans” (as they called them- instead of “beings”) and they wanted to make Sophie the next meal.
Together, Sophie and BFG had to come up with a plan to stop the evil giants.
Now, this is a fine little movie, but it is anything but a magical story. In fact, if I am being honest, I was really bored for the first hour or so of this movie. Yes, the two characters (BFG and Sophie) had a nice relationship, but there was just nothing much that happened. As I was preparing to hit this film with a negative review, something happened. The film took a major switch and I was suddenly engaged.
When Sophie devised the plan for her and BFG to go see the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) and ask for help with the evil giants, this film really took off. That entire section was so perfectly devised and executed that everything before that had bored me was gone from my mind and I was entertained. It was such an unexpected turn and a strange, unlikely way of dealing with the problem that I just loved it. The sections with the Queen were very funny and it really saved the movie for me.
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Mark Rylance donned the motion capture suit for this role and he does a wonderful job as BFG. He emotes so much with his eyes and his face that he really raised the bar in the art form of motion capture. Plus, Ruby Barnhill feels like she stepped right out of a Roald Dahl book. Her performance is an important one here and she definitely carries her own weight here.
Now excluding the motion capture, I will say that much of the CGI looked like CGI and it pulled me out of the movie, especially in the early part of the film. I would have expected better visual effects from a Spielberg movie.
While part of this movie was dull, the second half really brought the game. The BFG was a charming family film that everyone in the family can enjoy. There are some good messages here, and the ending is A+. Unfortunately, the entire film does not live up to what this film should have been. It is good. It just is not great.