Hi everyone, Bryan here…
I’m just thankful that Steven Spielberg is not doing awful period pieces like his last films, including ‘Lincoln‘, ‘War Horse‘, and ‘Bridge of Spies‘. Yes, those films won Oscars, but I’m willing to bet you’ve only seen the once and will never see them again. I’m thankful and excited that Spielberg has returned, at least for a few films into his magical world of sci-fi, which he excels at. This time around, Spielberg is tackling the children’s story of ‘The BFG‘ or ‘Big Friendly Giant’, by the great author Roald Dahl (‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘, ‘Matilda‘, ‘James and the Giant Peach‘, and ‘The Witches‘).
There are quite a few similarities to Spielberg’s opus ‘E.T.‘, in which a creature befriends a small kid and they go on adventures and connect with one another. Even the late Melissa Mathison, who wrote ‘E.T.‘, wrote the screenplay to ‘The BFG‘. If you’re looking for some of those 80’s Spielberg moments, then you’ll definitely find them here. That being said, iI don’t think it all holds as much weight or charm as his early films did. In fact, I think this film plays more to the younger crowd than it does to the adults.
Sure, there are things for everyone, but I imagine that farting corgis will only go so far for laughs. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, ‘The BFG‘ follows a young orphan girl named Sophie (the brilliant Ruby Barnhill), who is quick on her feet and a food natured soul. There are talks about giants who eat humans in town, and one night, a giant grabs little Sophie. Fortunately for her, this giant (Mark Rylance) is a friendly giant who catches dreams and nightmares from a dream tree and delivers the good ones to humans while they sleep.
Sophie and the BFG form a friendship with his hilarious and charming dialect and language, and she teaches him some proper etiquette. Just outside his house, away from the real world, lives a group of mean old giants, who look more like barbarians, and who eat humans and especially little kids. Jermaine Clement from ‘Flight of the Conchords‘ and Bill Hader provide some of the voices for the mean giants here and are quite funny. This world that Spielberg has created is magnificent. The vast views of the sea and green pastures, as well as the BFG’s home is so much fun and full of little fun details, that it would take multiple viewings to catch everything. Everything just seems so magical about it.
Soon enough, Sophie and The BFG go to the actual Queen of England and enlist her help to take care of the bad giants. The scene where the BFG is in the Queen’s castle is truly funny and will be a big hit with the kids. Ruby Barnhill is amazing as Sophie and just emulates a strong presence and confidence in her role at all times. She is charming and fun to watch on screen. I hope she sticks around for a while, because she has good acting chops.
Mark Rylance as the BFG is excellent as well, and even though it is all on motion capture, his voice work and movements are simply amazing and life-like. I just don’t think there is enough emotional weight or charm that would make this film one of Spielberg’s best. Still, this is a great movie and one that I would certainly watch again. And of course, when you get Spielberg, you get composer John Williams, who again, brings another great and memorable score.