Everything that Disney touches tends to be magical, and having Steven Spielberg as the magician only encourages that. Yes, The BFG was magical; but it was more than just that. It was a visually stunning, compelling story, that transported the audience into the fantastical world originally created by Roald Dahl.
The audience is taken on a journey with Sophie, a little orphan girl, who is kidnapped by a giant – a big friendly one – in the middle of the night, and the aftermath. Like many of Dahl’s children’s stories, it has its dark elements (BFG is the only friendly giant) but its also full of laughs (Whizpoppers with the Queen!), tears (BFG knew another little child once), and adventure (not only do we explore Giant Country and what the entails, but the countryside of England).
BFG has an important job of providing pleasant dreams to children. It’s a self-appointed job he does as penance. His six older brother (the much larger giants with names like Fleshlumpeater and Bloodbottler) ransack England snatching children and eating them. BFG does what little he can do to make up for this. The bigger and meaner giants also mistreat BFG in the worst way. Sophie, who is there through all this, bears witness to this manages to convince BFG that enough is enough. They hatch a masterful plan to finally take out the unfriendly giants that involves the Queen of England, her maid, and butler.
For those who read the book at any point in their life, but particularly as a child, its chock-full of nostalgia. A lot of the what you see in the screen mimics the artwork from the books. Dialogue in the movie might as well have been direct excerpts from the pages of Dahl’s 1982 classic. Melissa Mathison (E.T., The Indian in the Cupboard), who wrote the screenplay, managed to write a film that perfectly transcended from the book.
The tone of the film was expertly handled by Spielberg. When dark, it’s not too full of angst, and when light, it’s not too fluffy. He balances the story well to keep audiences interested but still connected and interested in what’s happening next. Superbly cast, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) plays the bumbling but well-meaning BFG. Ruby Barnhill (in her first film) plays a believable Sophie – precocious for having been taken from her orphanage home. The Cannybull and Murderful Giants, BFG’s older brother’s are portrayed by several different funny men that include Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords) and Bill Hader (Inside Out).
The sets for the movie range from Buckingham Palace, the dreamworld where BFG collects dreams, and BFG’s workshop. With a mixture of CGI and live-action, the imaginary Giant Country (and all that it entails) fits perfectly with the real English countryside and London streets we see at various points in the film. Early in the film, Spielberg expertly showcases this with BFG’s run through the streets of London. Somehow a thirty foot giant is able to blend into the shadows, pretend to be a tree, and other various camouflage attempts, all while unsuspecting humans pass him by.
The story moves quickly, and some may say not enough time is spent to get to the know the characters, that the plot jumps faster than one normally would expect. When watching the film, one must remember that they’re watching a movie based on a 208 page book. Parents will appreciate the brevity and children will easily follow along.
Being a Dahl fan, there may be some bias to reviewing the film. Ultimately though, regardless of being a Dahl fan, Disney fan, or Spielberg fan, viewers will find themselves entertained by The BFG.