I feel the need to preface this review by stating that Steven Spielberg is the greatest director of all time. He’s brought classic films to the screen for families and adults for over forty years. True he’s had some misses in his decades long career and as of late is still making movies for the grown ups like last year’s “Bridge of Spies” but still attempts to capture the hearts and minds of the child in all of us with this year’s fantasy “The BFG”.
Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a restless orphan who stays up late and secretly keeps the orphanage locked and safe. When looking out the window during the witching hour she notices a giant (Mark Rylance) creeping around on the London streets. The hooded giant spots her spotting him and whisks her away to Giant Country. After they arrive at his secret cave she comes to discover that he is a Big Friendly Giant, who collects dreams in his world and delivers them nightly to people in ours. However when the other much larger and more savage giants believe that the BFG has a child staying with him, things get dangerous for Sophie as she tries to keep both herself and her new friend safe.
Spielberg and his usual suspects of collaborators like editor Michael Kahn, Janusz Kaminski behind the camera and of course the great John Williams providing the score bring this tale by Roald Dahl to life to the screen with varying degrees of success. With a screenplay by the late Melissa Mathison that shifts from clunky to brilliant throughout the film, it is difficult to get a clear handle on what’s going on by the end. What is amazing is the acting and performance capture of Rylance as the BFG, his features are so realistic and impressive, they kind of make the other fantastic elements of the film seem below par. Barnhill as Ruby is fine, though she does not evoke that level of both maturity and kid-like wonder that Spielberg has been known to bring out in his child actors. As the film slows a bit in the middle, it really goes to some interesting places near the last act, but then just flat-out ends with not much substance left over.
Looking back over his filmography most of his films aimed at children always have a sense of sophistication to them. That is something that is missing from “The BFG”, it’s flat out kids fare, complete with fart jokes, though I will admit this one does it better than the last twelve kids movies I’ve seen. The way I look at this film is, this is Spielberg’s first collaboration with Disney, and I hope that this is just a stepping stone to him directing one of the countless Star Wars films that will be coming out in the next hundred years.
–Robert L. Castillo