The BFG (2016)

bfg_2016_poster
  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Family | Fantasy
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Cast: Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall

Storyline:

Ten-year-old Sophie is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets the Big Friendly Giant. Naturally scared at first, the young girl soon realizes that the 24-foot behemoth is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie’s presence attracts the unwanted attention of Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater and other giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must convince Queen Victoria to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all.

3 reviews

  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: Spielberg in childhood mode misses the magic but still entertains.
     
    GRADE:B

    SYNOPSIS: An orphan befriends a giant.

    JIM’S REVIEW: When I taught third grade, two of the most popular books during read-aloud time, by far, were by Roald Dahl. James and the Giant Peach and The BFG, the latter receiving the most joyous response from my students, were prime examples of the author’s macabre humor and imaginative plotting. I don’t know if it was the book itself, or just hearing the teacher read gibberish vocabulary and dealing with fart jokes which were aplenty in his story of a little orphan and a big friendly giant. The same effect can be found in this fine movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg, but not the same outcome.

    Technically, the film has lovely moments largely due to Janusz Kaminski’s rousing photography. However, unlike the original source, this version has no real heart and emotional bond. Whereas the short novel had Dahl’s droll humor and humongous tons of charm, the film adaptation has a lot of filler that edges on a more serious tone. The additional plotting just pads the story into a full length motion picture experience. The film relies more on adventurous chases and needless backstories which neither enhance or explain anything.

    The BFG stars Mark Rylance as the title character and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as his pal, Sophie. Abducted by the giant late one night, Sophie is transplanted into a world of giants, not as kind as her soft-spoken Big Friendly Giant a.k.a. BFG. This giant is the more sensitive kind, who catches dreams to share with sleeping youngsters later on his evening sojourns to London. But there are much larger and evil giants in the world that pose a danger to little Sophie, like the Fleshlumpeater, the biggest and baddest bully and leader of the whole lot. They would like to eat our heroine, a human “bean”, or any other tasty children for that matter. So Sophie and the BFG team up to stop them and enlist the aid of the Queen of England.

    The film successfully visualizes many scenes from the book. The opening sequence of Sophie’s capture, her visit to the Land of Dreams, and a delightful scene of the BFG having a lavish breakfast with the Queen are spot-on. Mr. Spielberg also keeps Mr. Dahl’s wondrous invented vocabulary front and center which help to immediately establish the kind nature of the BFG…words like strawbunkles (strawberries), trogglehumper (nightmare), snozzcumber (a foul-tasting vegetable), frobscottle (a fizzy drink that causes whizpopping (farting). When delivered by the talented Mr. Rylance, the dialog sound like comic poetry.

    But the film itself remains inconsistent in tone, logic, and visual look. At times, the scale of tiny Sophie and other surrounding objects, including the BFG, tends to fluctuate. The time frame of this tale varies as well. The production design of the orphanage and London streets seems like Victorian England, yet there is Queen Elizabeth, and not Victoria, on the throne. Later on, a clear mention of the Reagans being in office dates the film to the eighties. A real time warp.

    Mr. Rylance does some wonderful subtle acting with his CGI portrayal, but I personally found some of the special effects too artificially produced, especially whenever the side views of the giant came into play. (The head and elongated neck seemed too unconvincing, but the large ears did help complete the character well and matched Quentin Blake’s classic illustrations. Frontally and in close-up, the BFG imagery worked very well.) Ms. Barnhill does a good job as Sophie and Jermaine Clement as the Fleshlumpeater provides enough menace. Penelope Wilton as The Queen brings that upper English class to her role.

    The late Melissa Mathison’s screenplay has many of the components of the book. It just doesn’t have the magic that I expected from all the talent involved. The film can be as effervescent as a “frobscottle” but it also go flat, spinning its own wheels. Just as the BFG himself, the film has trouble making up its mind.

    Still quite entertaining, this film version of The BFG ultimately becomes “smogswallowed” by its own heavy-handed plot devices.

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  • In the middle of Roald Dahl’s writing career his book, The BFG, was written. I have no idea how accurate the film version is although the young man behind me found a number of things that weren’t correct. As a movie, however, the story is excellent.
    Melissa Mathison has written a screenplay that never slows down. Forget the kids in the audience, I was always interested in what would happen next. Director Spielberg, of course, must be given the majority of the credit since his vision drives the animations, the effects, the characterizations, and everything else you hear and see. But even he would have nothing to direct if the script was poorly written. And it isn’t so he does. And never once is the audience talked down to as happens in so many kid’s movies. Adults can enjoy it because it is a story well told.
    Don’t let the large cast fool you, there are only really two characters who count. Sophie, played by Ruby Barnhill, is an orphan with insomnia who takes care of a number of things at the orphanage where she lives. One night a shadow attracts her attention and she ends up seeing a giant who then snatches her so she can’t tell anyone else. The giant is the BFG, Big Friendly Giant, and he means her no harm. I have no idea how Barnhill did what she did in this movie. She is charming and sweet and tough as nails when she has to be but she had to have spent most of her time acting looking at a dot on a tall pole or, worse, trying to imagine the world she was in but only having green screens all around her. She handles it very well for a twelve year old.
    Mark Rylance, the title character, is an actor who I have yet to see slip. Rylance is an expert at the “less is more” acting. Even if his character is yelling, it’s not the volume but the tone that counts. Add to that the fact that the character confuses words, much to his annoyance but to everyone else’s, including the audience’s, enjoyment and you have a delight character, perfectly done. There was only one of his words that stuck out like a sour thumb, scrumdiliumcious, which is from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Both the book and the movie came out first.
    Of the other actors Penelope Wilton is a standout playing Queen Elizabeth. The whole sequence with her character is very funny.
    I give The BFG 5 glasses of frobscottle out of 5. It is an entertaining, well written, well made movie.

  • “Where am I? Giant country!”

    Steven Spielberg knows how to bring the magical world of Roald Dahl to life on a screen in a masterly way. Occasionally I need to watch a not too complicated or weighty film. Such a film that takes you to an enchanting, carefree world and to forget about everyday worries for a while. This time it’s a lovable little girl, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), who after seeing the big friendly giant wandering through the dark streets of London is kidnapped by him and taken to Giant Country. Just like Mowgli in “The Jungle Book”, Sophie is surrounded by computer-generated animations. But not completely. The face of the BFG looked quite familiar. Afterwards I discovered that Mark Rylance, who recently starred as Rudolf Abel in “Bridge of Spies” (also directed by Spielberg and he received an Academy Award for it), was the one whose face was used to shape the friendly, vegetarian giant.

    Again, it’s admirable how a little puny girl must act in a void, because I think the whole country inhabited by the giant giants is just a room filled with blue screens. Especially the majestic scene where she goes hunting for dreams along with the gentle giant, is a prime example of technological magic. When the less peaceful giants start looking for Sophie, those images made me think of “Jack the Giant Slayer”. And the made-up language used by the friendly giant, proves where J.K. Rowling took inspiration from so she could design the quirky lingo her characters spoke in the Potter series. But it’s particularly the shaping and impressive design that you’re gazing at with open mouth. The landscapes in Giant Country and the home of BFG is detailed and sharply imaged. But especially old London looks fantastic. Nocturnal London where the big friendly giant wanders around so he can blow his dream into the children’s bedrooms and where he ingeniously (and sometimes hilariously) manages to hide for wandering night owls.

    Most importantly is to let yourself be carried away in this wonderful world, otherwise it all looks rather childish. The film isn’t particularly terrifying. This makes it suitable for little kids. And they’ll amuse themselves when the gentle giant pulls out his home-brewed “frobscottle”. Drinking this greenish substance results in a fairly serious form of flatulence. Normally you’ll see comical situations with lots of farting or belching in a vulgar comedy. But here it produces some hilarious moments (even in the presence of the Queen).

    There’s actually nothing negative to say about this movie. Besides the fact that it was never really exciting or impressive. Maybe I’m not so easily impressed by something and are we already accustomed to these fabulous gadgets used in the world of movies. But I didn’t experience that wow feeling when watching “The BFG”. It wasn’t like the first “Harry Potter” movie. Or the first part of “The Lord of the Rings”. There wasn’t that magical atmosphere that makes it seem like you were teleported to another imaginary world. And that’s what I missed in this, especially charming, fairy tale. In a way it’s also a touching story. The not so big giant, eating slimy cucumber-like vegetables instead of human flesh and thereby being bullied. And then there’s that vulnerable little girl jumping into the breach for him. An engaging and simultaneously amusing story that younger children can enjoy. In other words, a suitable family film.

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