Considering The BFG was directed by one of the most celebrated directors of our time, Steven Spielberg, and it was based off a book written by one of the greatest children’s authors of all time, Roald Dahl, you would have thought it would have been a sure fire hit. Unfortunately for Disney it was a major box office disappointment, and in just two short years it has been all but forgotten. Thankfully its lack of success is not a measure of its quality. The BFG is a fun family film, and one all ages should enjoy.
Like 99% of all Dahl’s books, The BFG is about an orphan. In this case a young girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). She can’t sleep due to her insomnia, so she spends her nights taking care of her orphanage because the woman in charge of the establishment is incompetent. One night after her rounds she sees something through the window. It is a giant (Mark Rylance), and it snatches her away. As you can guess by the title of the film it is probably not a spoiler that Sophie is just fine despite being kidnapped, and that she is probably better off with the giant than in the orphanage. Even if all the other giants do want to eat her.
The BFG is quintessential Spielberg youthful adventure, and screenwriter Melissa Mathison (she also wrote E.T.) chose lighten up Dahl’s book, so the movie is more fun than scary. Which is probably for the best, since Dahl’s dark take on the world doesn’t always transition well from page to screen, or at least without terrifying younger viewers. With Mathison’s version, my three year old got a little nervous in a few parts, but for most part enjoyed everything she was witnessing, as did her parents.
This movie is pretty much about two main characters, Sophie and The BFG, and Barnhill and Rylance do a wonderful job. Their chemistry is great. Which is pretty amazing considering Barnhill is having to interact with a large CGI giant. They must have had Rylance up on stilts or something so that Barnhill could interact with him properly. Regardless of how it was done, kudos to a young actor for pulling off something so difficult.
Now to the one shortfall of this film. The CGI. While sometimes it is impressive, for the most part it just looks cartoony and falls hard in to the uncanny valley. I am sure the trailers of the iffy CGI giant is one of the major reasons audiences didn’t show up for this film. Which is a shame. So few true family films come out, so it would have been nice for this film to succeed and encourage more movies like The BFG to be made.
The BFG is now on Netflix, and it is well worth watching on family movie night, or if you are standing in front of a Redbox wondering what to watch. If there is one thing Spielberg knows how to do, it is direct a family adventure movie, and he doesn’t disappoint here. It is not a hard hitting drama, or a massive spectacle, but it is sweet and fun, and for most families, that should be more than enough reason to watch The BFG.