Movie Review: The BFG (2016)
“From the human beans that created E.T. and the author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda””
The BFG (2016)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton
Synopsis: A young orphan girl helps a Big Friendly Giant to overcome the bullies who have been making his life a misery.
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The subdued reception that greeted The BFG, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s perennial children’s favourite is probably down to two things. Firstly, in an age in which we’ve come to view any stranger as a potential threat, it’s difficult to warm to a movie in which a stranger abducts a small girl from the only home she has ever known and holds her captive in a foreign land whose inhabitants wish only to kill her; secondly, we’ve grown to expect kid’s movies to contain a fair amount of compensatory humour for the adults who are forced to sit amongst tens of dozens of loud, fidgeting small people in a dark, windowless room for a couple of hours, so we feel a little cheated when a film doesn’t even try to deliver on that score.
Ten-year-old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an insomniac orphan – just imagine how much grimmer her plight would seem if she’d been plucked from the bosom of a loving family… – who accidentally spies the titular giant (Mark Rylance) going about his business of delivering dreams in the dead of night. Unfortunately for Sophie, the BFG sees her watching him, and feels that he has no choice but to take her home with him to ensure his existence remains a secret from the normal world. Home is a pleasant land of rolling hills which he shares with a gang of much larger giants with such descriptive names as Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, Childchewer and Bonecruncher, none of whom share the BFG’s kindly manner, but would dearly love to ingest a tasty morsel like Sophie if they could.
Another problem with Spielberg’s The BFG is that it doesn’t really have much of a plot, and you get the impression that the director sincerely believed we would all be so blown away by the visuals to notice the fact that a whole lot of nothing is taking place on-screen. Having said that, the visuals, a blend of live-action and performance capture, really are something to behold. When it comes to the performances, Rylance’s scrawny, tongue-twisted title character grows increasingly sympathetic as the tale unfolds, thanks to the actor’s unique interpretation – although there’s no denying he sounds more like a cabbage farmer from Suffolk than a mythical giant from a faraway land. But while Barnhill makes a plucky enough heroine, there’s little about her to suggest a successful adult acting career awaits.
Most of the fun to be found in The BFG comes not from the lead characters, or their encounter with the Queen of England, but the other giants whose ugly, exaggerated features are complemented by their lack of intelligence and boorish behaviour. Unfortunately, their stupidity precludes them from posing a genuine threat, and the BFG’s encounters with them lack any real excitement or sense of danger.
(Reviewed 19th July 2016)