Ahhh, good ole Steven Spielberg. A household name for decades as one of the most inspirational filmmakers of our generation. So much of his work is a childhood staple, it’s hard not to be interested in anything with his name stamped on it. That’s not to say that he hasn’t had a few misfires. KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL anyone? But even his worst movies have always offered something by way of whimsy or visual spectacles. BFG looked like it’d be just that and early reviews for this family friendly movie made it seem very promising (you know, like every Spielberg film). I wasn’t sure if this was an original idea or if it was based on a previously published idea, but either way, I was very interested. Was this a giant friendly movie, or did Jack need to be here for some slaying? This is my honest opinion of THE BFG.
Ten year old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan girl. She tries to be good in the orphanage she lives in, her curiosity gets the better of her one fateful night. Looking out her bedroom window, she happens upon a skulking giant (Mark Rylance). Her presence catches his attention and out of fear of her telling the world of his existence, he kidnaps her and takes her away to a faraway land called Giant Country where he intends to keep her forever. But the two eventually strike up a friendship and Sophie becomes privy to the dangers of the land, primarily that although the big friend giant, or BFG as Sophie will end up calling him, is not a fan of eating humans, his brethren that are twice his size are more than happy eating people, placing Sophie in particular danger. But BFG wants to protect her and she wants him to stand up for himself and not live in fear of his own people.
UPDATE: Yeah, it’s based on a book. DISCLAIMER (obviously): I never read it.
You know what, I kinda liked this movie. I may not think it’s the best Spielberg movie ever made, but if you’re looking for a flick that showcases what Spielberg is primarily known for, you’ll find it here.
Somehow, nearly every Spielberg movie manages to cast great child actors. This is no exception. Young Barnhill is absolutely wonderful as Sophie. She’s a brash young lady, but has a heart as big as her giant friend. Barnhill interacts with her CG environment very well, and that can be difficult even for seasoned actors, but Spielberg definitely knew how to give her the right direction. I hope we see more of this young girl and look forward to her next big picture.
Moving on to the growing popularity that is Rylance. Most of you will remember him as the Russian spy that befriends Tom Hanks in BRIDGE OF SPIES. Hell, you should remember him because he won an Oscar for his performance. Personally, while I didn’t think he was bad, Rylance’s character just felt a little too boring for my taste and wasn’t very memorable by comparison to his competition. But if you wanted to see what Rylance was capable of, this movie will do it for you. Rylance as the BFG was so charming and so enjoyable that he feels so real at times. Yes, the character itself is computer generated, but the way they capture his expressions, his voice, it’s a brilliant and engaging performance that I don’t think another actor could have pulled off in the same way.
Speaking of computer generated, yeah, it’s phenomenal. The subtleties of the lip movements, the wrinkles around the cheeks and eyes and…. oh my god, the eyes! I think the animation and the realism of the eyes blew me away the most. In anybody else’s hands, I feel like the primary focus would have been to make the eyes enormous and simply showcase size. But Spielberg was smart enough to make sure that the emotion was the centerfold of the close-ups. Honestly, it’s breath-taking. Maybe the brethren giants are easier to spot, but when it was done right, it’s hard not to be impressed.
I think there are some clunky choices to justify how a giant has evaded public sight this whole time. Throwing over his over-sized black blanket to make an entire street seem like a dark alley or whatever, or hopping on the back of a pickup truck with big ole feet sticking out, it gets pretty ridiculous.
The movie does start to show some serious problems toward the last half hour.
So by this point, BFG has stood up for himself against his kin. In order to make life more peaceful for BFG, Sophie decides to conjure up a dream from all the remaining dreams that were collected to enlist the help of the Queen back home and utilize her military to attack the giants. Somehow, simply revealing a giant to the Queen and her forces wouldn’t be enough to convince them that giants exist and eat humans. Nope, they have to make the plan more complicated because… special effects and run times!
And, while I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this series of events, the story detours horribly when BFG enters the palace for food and drink. This scene lasts a good ten minutes, so if you’re not enjoying yourself like your five year olds probably are, then this would be the scene to get up and take a bathroom break because it has no real point. The easiest joke to make is, “Yeah, possible impending doom upon the people of England via getting eaten alive by ruthless, bloodthirsty giants. No one cares about that, we need tea and biscuits, stat!” Priorities? What’s that?
And I can’t believe that in one night, I saw two movies that showcased farting on multiple occasions and it’s the one with the crazy island-stranded dude talking to a corpse that gets it right and not a Spielberg film. Seriously, there was no point in that. And why did Spielberg insert that stuff in his movies anyway? Why is he making such weird additions to his movies? Has that always been a thing and I just never noticed?
Honestly, there’s a lot to enjoy in this film. The two leads share incredible chemistry, despite probably having very little real interaction with each other. The CG is extraordinary and, most importantly in a Spielberg film, it’s got just enough fun and whimsy to be a good time. It makes a few lame choices that don’t make a whole lot of sense that prevent it from being very good, but it’s hard not to recommend it. If you’re a Spielberg fan and want to take the kids to see a wonderfully put together story, I say this is right up your alley.
My honest rating: a strong 3/5
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