Disney's The BFG
review by Bobby Blakey
It’s been quite a while since Steven Spielberg stepped into the realm of fantasy for a film that is more family friendly than anything else. His latest The BFG kind of came out of nowhere, but looks to take him back into the family friendly realm of imagination once again. The film sports a great cast including Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Bill Hader, Jermaine Clement, Matt Frewer, and Rebecca Hall, but does it offer up the kind of fun that fans expect from his films of the past or will it try to be too big for its own good?
The BFG follows ten-year-old Sophie who meets the Big Friendly Giant and is naturally scared at first, but 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. This is one of those films that offers up an old school style of whimsy and heart that may not work as well today as it once did. Spielberg allows the films characters to interact without any kind of urgency, which works here, but may not keep some viewers attention. The story is pretty simple and despite talking about the threat of giants eating children it never goes beyond that. Sure with a PG rating you don’t expect a giant to actually be chomping up children, but you would have thought there would be more regarding this in the film. Thankfully that is just a side note to the story as the real focus is on the relationship between Sophie, played great by Ruby Barnhill and the big friendly giant played by Mark Rylance. The majority of the film focuses on their various exchanges within his home in the land of the giants. Their conversations are clever, witty and all around fun to watch. Rylance’s giant has a unique brand of speech that is interesting and fun to listen to and as confusing as it could have been is just off enough to be funny, but still easy to decipher. This film is clearly geared towards the younger audience as the humor is funny, but focuses on the fart and gross jokes at times including a great moment in the Queen’s palace.
With a movie like this you have to be able to make the giants believable and the CGI here is spot on. There are obviously some fantastical designs to the giant’s looks while still making them believable characters. Spielberg could have easily pulled off some tricks to keep these characters at a distance, but he takes you right up in their faces. It’s amazing to see the close ups for not just the great CGI, but you can see the actor in there. If you pay close attention to the BFG’s face you can see nuances and facial features of Rylance coming through with the design and performance. It’s always interesting to see the directions and clever uses for normal things in the world of giants and there is plenty of eye candy for viewers to enjoy throughout the fun exchanges between the BFG and Sophie.
As great overall as this film is, there are some issues here and there. The film runs a bit long for the little amount that actually happens. It is totally entertaining to watch everything that happens throughout the film, but even the younger audience may not get sucked in like audiences might have years ago in this type of story. The ending is the biggest let down as it felt like they were really building to something big (pun intended) and yet it felt rushed and over too quickly. Without giving it away there is a time where it could have been a great moment of action and as it begins it is great and then almost in the same few moments it is over leaving you feeling incomplete. Having never read the book not sure if this is the same ending and if so then bravo for sticking to it, but as a while it will likely end up giving viewers a feeling of the entire experience leading up to really nothing in the end.
Despite these small issues this really is a great film that harkens back to the early works of Spielberg like E.T. just minus the more aggressive direction that the villains of the story take. If you go into this and just allow yourself to enjoy the fantastical world brought to life on screen then you will likely leave satisfied. In addition to the film this release also includes a variety of bonus features including featurettes that take you deeper behind the making of this film fun story and a tribute to screen writer Melissa Mathison.
Grab your copy of Disney's The BFG on Digital HD, Blu-ray™ and Disney Movies Anywhere on November 29th.