Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer
Executive Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Michael Siegel, Frank Smith, Naia Cucukov
Written by: Melissa Mathison, Roald Dahl
Studio: Disney, Amblin Entertainment in association with Walden Media
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Rating: PG - Parental Guidance Suggested
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Hello all! A couple of days ago, I was invited by Walden Media to a free screening of their new film, The BFG. So here I am to tell you all about it, and please keep in mind that I did not let the complimentary passes affect my opinion of the film.
I actually don't remember reading the book at all when I was a child, though I'm sure I probably cracked it open at some point. I mean, how do you hang out in any library with books for children and not peruse a Roald Dahl book at some time or other? It's very hard to do. Whether it's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, or The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), it's just a given that you'll have had some kind of idea of what a Dahl story should be like: playful, clever, a bit weird, and involving main characters who are orphans or in some way disenfranchised. But unlike the film versions of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (old and new) and Matilda (who's all grown up now, by the way), you probably don't have an iconic vision of what The BFG is supposed to look like in real life, because the first film to be made based on the book was made in the cheeseball era of animation.
Anyway, I walked into The BFG with pretty close to a blank slate as one could possibly have. All I knew was it was a Disney interpretation of the classic Roald Dahl story, with Steven Spielberg at the helm. I walked out at the end well pleased. THIS is the iconic BFG we didn't even know we wanted. Mark Rylance does a great job voicing the big friendly giant whose existence is beleaguered by nine other giants who bully him endlessly (some of whom you'll recognize as voiced by Jemaine Clement, Bill Hader, and Adam Godley). Ruby Barnhill portrays the central character, Sophie, who is kidnapped by the BFG to stop her tattling to the whole world about giants, with precocious aplomb. Treat of treats, Penelope Wilton also turns up as The Queen. The late E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial screenwriter Melissa Mathison, to whom the film is dedicated, wrote the well-paced script.
The BFG was both prettily animated and laugh-out-loud funny. As a childless person, I usually try to avoid seeing kids' movies when crowded, not-so-quiet-whisper-filled audiences are likely to be in attendance, but this is one I would recommend seeing right away and with as many young people as possible. At some point, during the breakfast scene, I think, there was a child in the audience belly laughing so uncontrollably, we couldn't help but laugh along with her. And yeah, there is a large percentage of the humor that is fueled by fart jokes, but that's frobscottle for you.
There are parts that are a little bit scary, which is likely what gives it the PG rating instead of G. The giants keep threatening to eat people, after all. After a while we trust that young Sophie is safe with The BFG, who is a vegetarian, and no human is ever consumed on-screen, but there is also sad confirmation that The BFG isn't exaggerating when he calls his fellow giants "man-eaters". Still, the light outweighs the dark in this one. The BFG's day job involves collecting and re-distributing dreams: the fantastical animations and funny labels on the dream jars highlight the whimsy, while Sophie and The BFG's word-mashing repartee bring wit to the fore.
The effects, costumes, and the rest of the movie's filmcraft elements are interesting (like Sophie's quilt that she drags about for a good portion of the movie--seriously, I am contemplating making one now), but somewhat forgettable. About the only thing I really found disappointing was the soundtrack. Yes, it's a John Williams score, and I suppose he's had enough scene-stealing music in his lifetime that we can let this one slide. It wasn't awful; it just wasn't special. The biggest takeaway from the whole experience is that Ruby Barnhill, who plays the brave orphan heroine with unnatural ease, is a born ham; at several points she made me wonder if Steven Spielberg even had to direct her at all. At 12 years of age she's already got comedy pretty down pat; I hope she gets more opportunities to hone and show off her drama skills, too.
All in all, The BFG was a whizpopping good time. Bring a child or three with a good sense of humor.
The BFG debuts on Friday, July 1st, nationwide. Watch some trailers and then check out http://www.walden.com/movie/the-bfg/ for more info.