Running Time: 1 hour and 57 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
With The BFG, famed director Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut with Disney brings beloved children’s author Roald Dahl’s story to life in a way that is both visually dazzling and emotionally rewarding for all ages. This beauty is enhanced by strong performances from veteran actor Mark Rylance as the titular giant and his tiny co-star Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.
By now, most families are familiar with at least one of Roald Dahl’s stories which include timeless classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. What makes them (along with many classic children’s stories that have stood the test of time) so universally appealing is the incredibly deft way that they balance the dark realities of life and childhood with wonder, innocence and enchantment. The fact that so many of his books have been adapted for the big screen is a testament to this appeal although their success rides on the filmmakers’ ability to translate that balance. Luckily, Spielberg, screenwriter Melissa Mathison and cinematographer Janusz Kamiński have created a world that’s frightening at times, heartwarming at times, but always beautiful.
The film tells the relatively simple story of a young insomniac orphan named Sophie who is snatched from her home by a giant during the “witching hour” because she was awake to see him roaming the sleeping streets of London. She is taken to Giant Country, an uncharted place populated by vile child-eating beasts with names like The Bloodbottler and The Fleshlumpeater. The only one who does not share their cannibalistic tendencies is the BFG, who insists that Sophie never leaves his hideaway despite her protests. However, the two lonely cave-dwellers quickly develop a friendship and understanding between each other…at least during the moments when they are trying to prevent Sophie from being discovered.
The thing in this film that stands out immediately is the gorgeous photography and special effects. Whether it’s the misty London streets or the BFG’s home (which includes a full-sized ship that the giant uses as a bed), the movie is dripping with atmosphere and fantasy. It truly feels like a world that exists during the time that our eyes are closed. 3D is used marvelously as a way to enhance instead of distract, especially in Giant Country where the shots and camera movements effectively convey the scale of the place and of the giants as if the viewer were in Sophie’s shoes. For once I can actually recommend that people go see a movie in 3D!
The giants themselves also look astounding with performance capture and effects done by industry heavyweights, Weta Digital. Each face is cartoony and distinct but also incredibly real and expressive, especially the BFG. Every minute detail of Rylance’s performance can be seen in the BFG’s face. They all feel like they are really there in front of Sophie.
The performances themselves are just as convincing as the effects. Rylance’s BFG bumbles through words and phrases in a gentle and sometimes hilarious manner and conveys real warmth as the BFG, providing subtle depth to the character in his interactions with Sophie. Barnhill is also great as the precocious and brave little orphan. Her performance is especially impressive given that, for most of the movie, she is the only human character on screen! Also notable is Jemaine Clement as The Fleshlumpeater, the de facto leader of the giants. He can go from clumsily hilarious to utterly terrifying in a matter of seconds when he picks up Sophie’s scent.
My one major complaint with the film is that the enchantment sort of dims a bit once more humans enter the picture, though this segment is still loads of fun and probably got the most laughs from the children in my theater. Still, it feels like they could’ve done something more with the final act of the film which feels a little rushed.
However, one thing I do have to admire above all is the timeless quality of the movie. All of the jokes and humor and characters fit firmly within the movie’s world. There are no giants tweeting or referencing the Kardashians or anything like that which could damage the spell that the film casts. It knows exactly the kind of movie it wants to be and sticks with it all the way through. As an adaptation to a beloved story, the BFG is “scrumdiddlyumptious.”
– Review by Spencer Nachman
This is a story of a little girl. There’ll be great adventures and laughter. Times will be hard. Times will be soft. So hold your breath, cross your fingers, here we go…
Moonbeams stream through the window at an orphanage in England. Young Sophie is contemplating the witching hour as she wanders through the orphanage since she is routinely awake at 3am. As she tries to read a book under her covers, she is attracted to the light of the moon as it floods the window and she catches a glimpse of a 24 foot tall slender figure. Once she is discovered, she finds herself whisked off to a faraway land known as Giant Country. There she becomes acquainted with her captor who calls himself The Big Friendly Giant (BFG) and relieves her anxiety by sharing that he only eats veggiterribles. She is amused by his language, but alarmed by his description of the other 50 foot tall giants in Giant Country whose diets consist mostly of children. After a close call with Fleshlumpeater, the leader of the giants, BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he captures dreams to share with children. When brave Sophie sees the other giants torment BFG due to his diminutive stature, she formulates a plan where BFG can use his job of dream streaming to prevent the giants from satisfying their diet of eating human beans (beings).
Never get out of bed. Never go to the window. Never look behind the curtain.
The world is truly more giant than you can imagine. After 30 years in production, three of the greatest story tellers collaborate beautifully to bring this year’s most delightful, enchanting, and magical story to the big screen. Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall first dreamt of developing this adaptation in the 1990’s and with several changes in screenwriters, I believe that Melissa Mathison came as close as possible to portraying this classic tale from the genius mind of Roald Dahl. This is Dahl’s 6th book that has been featured in a full length film and quite possibly the best. Since he was disappointed in the the screenplay of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory due to the emphasis on Willie Wonka instead of Charlie, I wonder if he’d be pleased that the screenplay of The BFG equally shares character development of Sophie and BFG. Before going in, I knew that I’d enjoy the film because it was directed by Steven Spielberg, but I didn’t fully realize the magnitude of pleasure that would be derived from the result of the entire collaboration. The cast, led by Academy Award Winner Mark Rylance who delivered his performance in motion capture, was absolutely bewitching. The choice of casting a relatively unknown young actress from England was a brilliant decision. Her big brown eyes and genuine performance nearly out-shined her more experienced cast members. Also bringing notable contributions are Spielberg collaborators since 1993’s Shindler’s List are the 41 time Oscar nominee/5 time winning composer, John Williams, and six-time Oscar nominee/2 winning cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. Add in Disney Pictures’ magic to the stew and you have a delumptious cinematic treat. Find out what all the rumpledumpus is by grabbing some Frobsgottle and popcorn before leaping into the theater to catch this one on the big screen!
– Review by Movie Buffette
Steven Speilberg takes Roald Dahl’s award winning children’s novel, “The BFG” and revolutionizes it into a lucid adventure through the unknown- and straight into Giant Country. Eleven year old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a quick witted and smart girl, living in an orphanage after the death of her parents. Suffering from insomnia, Sophie notices something strange during the night that will change her destiny forever. She discovers “The BFG” (Mark Rylance), a giant who scoops her up and takes her back to his home- a cave in so called Giant Country. The BFG, standing for “Big Friendly Giant”, quickly goes from Sophie’s captor to Sophie’s protector after she is met with bigger, and much meaner giants. Not only do these giants bully The BFG for being the “runt”, but also because theyare human eating barbarians! Naturally, it is left up to Sophie and The BFG to devise a plan in stopping the giants, and to save themselves.
“The BFG” is a story of an unlikely friendship and of personal growth. Sophie and The BFG could both be considered “runts”, unwanted and forgotten- but find purpose and companionship in one another. The evolution of Sophie as a character is written with a certain refinement that cannot be accurately described. Sophie goes from a stressed out ball of neuroticism to a fun loving and significantly happier girl. The character of The BFG stays a consistent combination of charming and goofy throughout, making him a lovable and endearing match to Sophie’s wit. While The BFG out measures Sophie in height, her personality transcends her short stature.
Ruby Barnhill as Sophie is pure grace, the young and upcoming actress made an unforgettable performance. It seems that she will be a notable name in Hollywood from this point forward. Complemented by Mark Rylance, coming off an Oscar win from “Bridge of Spies”, he is the perfect match to Barnhill’s powerful spunk and charm!
With a soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the whimsical nature of the film, and visuals that make you feel like you’ve been on a psychedelic adventure through Speilberg’s masterpiece, it makes up for the lacking where plot is concerned. About an hour into the film, the plot is still not totally evident, and when it finally reveals itself it seems weak and incomplete. Despite the frail storyline, “The BFG” provides plenty of belly laughs, stunning visuals, and a warm feeling in your heart. It carries a rating of PG, which makes for the perfect family movie, holding life lessons and witty banter throughout.
Overall, the visuals are breathtaking, along with a wonderful cast and decent writing. The runtime is a little long at around 120 minutes, considering the fact you reach the plot at about minute sixty. Dazzling cinematography coupled with the dynamic duo of Barnhill and Rylance earn this movie a four out of five stars. As no surprise to all, Speilberg delivers a lovely new film to be enjoyed by all audience members.
– Review by Kennedy Ryder
Ruby Barnhill as Sophie
Penelope Wilton as The Queen
Rebecca Hall as Mary
Rafe Spall as Mr. Tibbs
Marilyn Norry as Matron
Graham Curry as Palace Guardsman
Matt Frewer as British General
Chris Shields as Air Force General