- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Director Steven Spielberg is no stranger to the fantastical realms that collide in his faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s classic book. For many people like myself, Spielberg’s films were the main courses of our cinematic outings growing up. His filmography is the stuff of legend. He has directed or executively produced far too much of my childhood to list here but, without his work, I would be a much smaller man. From director to executive producer and beyond, he is a true giant of the cinema.
And speaking of giants, it is with Dahl’s The BFG – about an unlikely friendship between a little girl and a really big giant – in which he returns to that place we, as children, once held so special in our hearts; the place where dreams and reality collide, igniting our imagination and giving us reason to believe in the impossible, if only for a minute or two. It is a welcome return to familiar territory for Spielberg as his latest film is both faithful to Dahl’s vision and an absolute delight of simplicity. While it can’t be denied that he’s done family-friendly material like this before and, admittedly, a bit less languid, The BFG is definitely not a disappointment.
>Adapted by the late Melissa Mathison (The Black Stallion, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), The BFG is a fantasy that tells the story of an orphan named Sophie (exquisitely played by Ruby Barnhill) who finds herself swept up in a tale of magic one night after spotting a cloaked figure blow something mysterious into a bedroom window. She tries to hide but is easily found and, as frightening as it appears, is soon in for the adventure of her young life, finally finding somewhere where she feels … loved.
Sophie is quickly whisked away by this massive figure and taken to the far off land of Giant Country. The mysterious man identifies himself as The Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) and reassures the girl that he does not eat humans. He speaks in a funny way, says silly things, and tears down her walls. She can’t help but fall for him. The duo become fast friends, journeying across the land to stop the man-eating giants led by the Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).
From the very beginning of the film, Spielberg manages to weave a dream-like spell over his audience. The film is very simple and yet within that simplicity is a breezy movement that is happy to simply live in the moment of this unique friendship. Spielberg’s not setting up sequels here and that in itself must be truly freeing for a director known for creating franchises. As a result, The BFG is easily a film to revisit time and time again and, as it is not afraid to go dark on its youngest audience members, it is a film that will surely age alongside them. Magically enough, the film – especially for the older audiences – will have the reverse effect. I swear to God that you will leave the film feeling somehow younger and enthused by the twinkle-eyed tale.
Rylance’s and Barnhill’s performances are pitch-perfect and manage to make up for any loss of emotion the simplicity of the tale lets slide as it is alarmingly escapist entertainment when broken down to bone. Being a Dahl creation, it will be no revelation to suggest to you (the collective “you” being those familiar with the author’s work) that this is one of the stranger of Spielberg’s offerings.
True, there is room for both boys and girls in this widespread tale of hugs and farts and dreams, dreams, dreams but that doesn’t exactly mean that The BFG isn’t without a wart or two. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski fixes his steely gaze on all things magical – including a tree where dreams are plucked from – but he doesn’t quite have a strong enough story to match the visuals against. This is a tale of friendship and little else; it is faithful to the book to a fault. Books and films should and often do flow differently.
Technically speaking, there is little simple in Spielberg’s film, though. The special effects are eye-popping and as outrageous as some of the on-screen hijinks happening around the giants and the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton). This is a massive film of awesome effects. It will not disappoint there. But Spielberg is content enough to let the simple-minded story slide a bit. The marvel trumps the meaning, if you will. He’s not chasing after some mysterious white rabbit with Dahl’s work; he simply wants the story to live in its world and does so by revisiting some of the themes he has mastered so well.
We must forgive the acclaimed director then for not wanting to make the slow-moving narrative match the awesome visuals. Sometimes the fairy tale has to be enough and that’s exactly what The BFG is. It is, at once, a magical family film that transforms a very fine actor into a bigger than life motion capture work of marvel and imaginings. In that way, Spielberg is very much like The Big Friendly Giant at the center of his new film. He brings us our dreams and, speaking as a Spielberg Baby (a fat kid who grew up watching his films), that’s a damn good thing.
MPAA Rating: PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor
Runtime: 117 mins
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton
Genre: Adventure | Family
Tagline: From the human beans that created E.T. and the author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Matilda"
Memorable Movie Quote: "Does you have a little pet?"
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Site: http://movies.disney.com/the-bfg
Release Date: July 1, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 29, 2016
Synopsis: A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because unlike his peers refuses to eat boys and girls.
Home Video Distributor: Disney / Buena Vista
Available on Blu-ray - November 29, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); iTunes digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A
There’s a lot to love about Disney’s 1080p release of BFG. While there’s a lot of CGI running through its currents, Spielberg’s movie is a visual delight. Black levels are solid and the colors – while tastefully muted – are indeed something special. Faces are crisp and emotive and the lines that track the actors and their expressions are thick. Even the shadows hold their lines and offer a lot of spectacular depth to the darker scenes in the movies. This film is bustling with imagination and wonder. You simply won’t get tired of the world it presents. The sound – also impressive – is rendered in a vibrant DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack that offers every scene with an immersive field of audible noises, which makes you feel a complete part of the story.
Loaded with lots of special looks at bringing giants to life, the supplemental items are relatively grounded. Nothing too extraordinary included. The best features include a look at bringing the movie to life, a tribute to Melissa Mathieson, and creating the giants in the movie. A DVD copy of the film and a Disney digital copy voucher are included with purchase.
- Bringing The BFG to Life (27 min)
- The Big Friendly Giant and Me (2 min)
- Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words of the BFG (3 min)
- Giants 101 (5 min)
- Melissa Mathieson: A Tribute (6 min)