Big, Friendly, but not so giant a hit The BFG is entertaining but not memorable
By Kaely Monahan
The BFG is a film which will either delight or disappoint. Die-hard fans of Roald Dhal’s book will (unsurprisingly) be in the disappointed camp. However, fans of Steven Spielberg will probably enjoy his adaptation. While not certainly the best to come out of Spielberg’s imagination, the film does harken back to joyful movies like The Goonies, Hook and even a bit of Indian Jones.
Starring the Oscar-winning Mark Rylance as BFG and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, the story closely follows the book. However, it runs into some pacing issues. The story kind of stalls out in certain parts. Even so, it feels that it has less to do with the film and Spielberg and more to do with the source material. There are long scenes with very little action and mostly dialogue—which can be boring for kids.
The way the BFG speaks is also a problem. While cute, perhaps on the page, it loses its cuteness after thirty minutes. The other giants, which get more play in the book, are hardly on screen and the sense of danger they bring is more a shadow than a real threat because of it.
However, in true “Spielbergian” fashion, The BFG excels in sets, props and character. Mark Rylance is the heart and soul of the film and despite his characters “mubbly-wubblings” he is brilliant. His double performance of voice and live-action capture is something to see. Strangely, in this instance CGI animation works. Despite the caricaturization of Rylance, there is a level of realism that works. Perhaps it is the slightly goofy appearance that works in BFG’s favor as a CGI character.
Barnhill is overshadowed by Rylance but she does bring the necessary cute factor. Earnest-eyed and precocious, she is a nice change from Spielberg’s usual hero archetype. (The last time he directed a female-led film was 1985’s The Color Purple.)
What truly makes this film great are the visualizations. BFG’s house is a wonderland of weird vegetables and oversized everything. There’s a cringe-worthy moment when Sophie crawls inside one of BFG’s ugly cucumbers to hide from the other giants which is fun. However, most visually stunning is the dream tree sequence. It’s an enchanting scene that you’ll wish to watch over and over again.
The film puttered out, however in the third act. Again this is more due to the source material than Spielberg or the script. The single highlight is the breakfast scene, which is another delightfully visual and funny moment.
In the end, The BFG is geared towards children—which heartily enjoyed the film at my viewing. But it will leave parents and lovers of Dahl’s book with lackluster feelings.
- Kaely Monahan is an entertainment reporter and creator of the film review podcast Popcorn Fan Film Reviews.