“The BFG” Brings Together Disney, Steven Spielberg And Roahl Dahl For A Family Fun Adventure
“The BFG” is a modern day fairy-tale that tells the story of a young orphan girl who goes on an adventure with a giant into his world of Giant Country. That’s how to sum it up in one sentence but there is much more to the story than that.
Ruby Barnhill plays the brave Sophie.
The movie starts off where we see that Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is awake while the rest of the orphans are fast asleep. Sophie hears a disturbance in the streets and against her better judgement looks out her bedroom window and is startled by the sight of a giant (Mark Rylance), rummaging in the street. The giant notices that Sophie has spotted him and decides to take her away to Giant Country because he fears that she will reveal his existence. Sophie soon discovers that the giant does not intend to eat her for a late night snack but is actually a Big Friendly Giant, or BFG, and they soon become friends and Sophie convinces BFG to take him on his adventures. While in Giant Country, Sophie and BFG come across much larger giants that are not friendly at all and have a taste for human flesh, yup, I said human flesh, and they especially like the taste of children. Both Sophie and BFG help each other conquer their own fears to help each other out and the rest I’ll leave in the SPOILER section.
The classic children’s book by Roald Dahl.
When this movie was first announced, I was shocked and excited to learn that this movie was actually happening. The biggest shock for me was that Steven Spielberg was directing the movie. Spielberg and Disney have never had the best history together, but in recent years both have softened. Also this was a Roald Dahl children’s book being adapted for film. Dahl is best known for writing Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, but he has also wrote some other children’s classics such as Matilda, The Witches, James And The Giants Peach and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I have read several of Dahl’s books, but unfortunately have not read The BFG and wish that I had now to see how this movie compares to the actual book. I doubt Spielberg would stray too much from the source material and have heard that this does come close to the novel. Dahl’s books do seem to have a common theme in them. Well, one is they mostly involve children as the hero or heroine and the come from either a poor or broken home. They usually overcome great odds and find courage in themselves to overcome their obstacles and triumph in the end and The BFG is no exception.
Steven Spielberg and actress Ruby Barnhill on the set of The BFG.
This would seem to be the perfect marriage of one of the greatest directors, who really shines when it comes to working with young actors, and one of the classic children books’ author, Roald Dahl. Well, it is and it isn’t. I did really enjoy the movie, but at two hours long it did seem to drag at times. And then there are times, it felt like some parts were missing. This really was not your typical Spielberg movie. In fact, if I didn’t know who was directing this movie I would have guessed Tim Burton. The movie is very dark at times. Both in tone and visually too. The mean giants were scary at times but if your kids can handle The Wizard Of Oz, this should be a cakewalk for them. With Steven Spielberg attached to anything, you can’t help but expect more and for me it felt like this was not his best effort. John Williams composed the musical score for the film which was a nice surprise and his score is excellent as always. I will say that as soon as this movie started, I got an instant Harry Potter vibe from it. Similar Williams’ tune, takes place in London, with double-decker buses driving buy and an outcast kid with glasses. I was waiting for an owl to be delivering post. The BFG reminded me of King Kong as well, well, the later adaptations. Sophie is taken away from her home, spends most of her time in the giant’s hand, but eventually learns that he has a good heart and they both become friends and rely on each other.
Actor Mark Rylance bares a striking resemblance to his CGI character counterpart, The BFG.
Ruby Barnhill does an excellent job portraying Sophie and our heroine. She is smart, brave, loyal and adventurous and felt she was a great role model for children. And to think that she was basically acting alone in front of a blue screen is quite an achievement for such a young actress. Mark Rylance is outstanding as the BFG and he becomes a very lovable character for children. I am sure that a lot of that credit should go to the wizards at ILM. The BFG is completely CGI but you can definitely see actor Mark Rylance in his characterization. One thing that I was worried about is after seeing several trailers and TV spots for The BFG, it appeared that the giants looked too CGI and were noticeably not on screen with the human actors. But in the actual movie, that is not the case, and they seem to blend in well with Sophie and the landscape.
BFG doesn’t appear very giant-like next to the other residents of Giant Country.
OK. Getting into SPOILERS now.
As I had said before, this movie seemed to drag at times, mostly because they had so much going on. The BFG spends his time searching for dreams. The dreams are kind of like glowing Tinkerbelles with various colors. Red meaning bad dreams and blue meaning happy and so forth. BFG catches these dreams and places them in a jar and then goes back to his workshop and blends certain dreams together to come up with very nice dreams for children and sometimes adults. Once the process is complete he goes into town, and with the aid of his trumpet, he blows these dreams into children’s minds. I kept thinking, how did he learn that, who told him that was his job? BFG is a lot smaller than the other giants and they actually seem like giants to him when they are all on screen together. Wondered if there was any reason for that? BFG has a task of creating dreams but the other giants dont? They mention that some children have been missing and it is assumed that those children have been eaten by the giants. For some reason the big mean giants are afraid of water, but the BFG is not. What is the deal with that? Sophie has an idea to convince Queen Elizabeth to help them defeat the evil giants and prevent the giants from ever eating children again. So BFG mixes up an elaborate dream for the Queen so that when she meets Sophie for the first time, she will understand the severity of Sophie’s request. Sophie and the BFG eventually sneak into Buckingham Palace but for me the Queen is convinced a little too easily. A this point I realized that this took place in the 80’s since Queen Elizabeth phones The White House and tells her staff to have Nancy wake Ron up and thought that was a nice touch. The Queen invites Sophie and The BFG to have a meal with her and it is a fun way of seeing this big giant interact with people, the expensive antiques and furniture in Buckingham Palace. One thing I hate in movies is fart jokes and there is a few in this movie. But the kids in the audience seemed to really like that scene, so maybe I’m just an old grump. Sophie’s plan is to have the BFG concoct a nightmare for all of the bad giants to scare them and then have the British military attack them in Giant Country. I know it is a kids book and it’s a children’s movie but the military defeats the giants with no weapons? And just used ropes to carry them away to a remote island by helicopters? I felt that they could have fired weapons at the giants and not have the weapons have any affect like the old Godzilla movies. Would have seemed better to me. At the end, Sophie is adopted by one of the Queens representatives but we no barely anything about her except for a few smiles and glances that she displayed to Sophie while meeting with the Queen. Just felt that some scenes could have been fleshed out more and some cut out all together to make it a more enjoyable movie.
End Of SPOILERS.
Fleshlumpeater. Not a BFG at all.
I had the feeling that Disney was hoping that this movie would be a huge blockbuster and I could really see one scene in particular being turned into a ride in the Disney Parks. I imagined we would go to Giant Country, maybe being similar to the vehicles in Dinosaur, and be in BFG’s home as Fleshlumpeater and his crew of mean giants search the premises for a snack. We would have to hide from the giants during several close calls without being seen. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this is going to do big box office, so we could forget about any ride in the future. But maybe with a good word of mouth and some help from overseas box office, it could turn itself around.
The BFG shows Sophie how he catches dreams.
Overall, I did enjoy the movie. It’s not my favorite movie of the year, but far from the worst either. I’m the kind of person that it usually takes about two viewings of a movie for me to come up with my true opinion of the film and I have a feeling I would enjoy the movie much more a second time around. Everyone in my audience applauded at the end of the film and for me that is always a good sign. It’s Disney, it’s Dahl and it’s kind of Spielberg. The BFG is a fun family film that I think both kids and adults will enjoy, but it drags at times, it’s a bit trippy at times and raises a lot of questions during the last third of the film. I wouldn’t expect Zootopia or The Jungle Book going in, but who knows? You may be surprised and The BFG may make a big connection with you.
The Big Friendly Giant is also a Big Happy Giant.
I give “The BFG” 4 out of 5 stars.