By Michael Kaye
The BFG (Review)
2016 is year for a number of different "firsts." It was the first time we saw the DC Trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) together on the big screen, it will be the first time Lucasfilm releases a Star Wars film outside of the main saga, but most of all, it's the first time Steven Spielberg is directing a film for Walt Disney Pictures. This may not seem like that big of a deal, since technically he's already made three films for Disney under the Touchstone/Dreamworks distribution deal, but not everyone is aware of that. It's also important to note that this is his first family film in a very long time, and he's reunited with E.T.'s screenwriter Melissa Mathison. This is my review for Disney's adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's book The BFG.
Here's the story. 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 them, he refuses to eat children. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!
I'll be honest, Spielberg seems a little out of practice here, but he's still Steven freaking Spielberg. As I've mentioned before, even his low-tier films are leagues above some of the competition. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is wonderful. I was very impressed with Ruby Barnhill's performance as Sophie, who probably had to do a lot of acting against green screen. Mark Rylance as the BFG is amazing, he's practically glowing with charisma. I'd say he's one of the most likeable characters I've seen all year. As for the rest of the giants, they happened to be played by some of my favorite comedic actors of all time, such as Jermaine Clement as Fleshlumpeater and Bill Hader as Bloodbottler. Finally, a female comedian who for some reason never gets the attention she deserves, Penelope Wilton, plays The Queen of England.
This is probably the funniest Spielberg movie I've seen in a long time, and that's thanks to a fantastic screenplay by Melissa Mathison. I mean, she's already at an advantage by adapting Roald Dahl's material, and for the most part his stories have turned into some of my favorite films of all time, especially Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Now, you're gonna read this and think I'm crazy, but the reason why the comedy works, and why Spielberg is Spielberg, is because of its childish, often juvenile sense of humor. You want proof? The one scene that got the biggest laugh in the entire movie involves one elaborate fart joke. No other director can turn a fart joke into such a major highlight of a film, but somehow he pulled it off.
The visual effects done by Weta Digital look spectacular! This is the second time that Spielberg has worked with motion capture technology, the first time being The Adventures of TinTin. If I had any reason to be nervous about this film, this was one of them, but fortunately I was pleasantly surprised. I love the world that Spielberg has created from the pages of the original source material, with Mark Rylance's appearance looking especially uncanny. One of my favorite scenes was the introduction to the dream world, so vibrant and colorful and sprinkled with a dash of Disney magic.
Finally, of course you can't have a Steven Spielberg movie without the magical, whimsical score from John Williams. Much like Spielberg himself, his worst material is still leagues ahead of some other composers, and that comes from decades of experience. There's nothing really that memorable about this score, but it does exactly what it needs you to suck you into the world and get invested in these characters.
I don't really have that many negatives, if any at all. However, I have a few observations.
One of those observations is Spielberg's directing. It's been a while since he's done a family film, so I don't blame him for being a little rusty. However, there are a few scenes times during the movie where the pacing just seemed off. The worst offender of this is when we first encounter The Queen. There were too many awkward pauses in between lines of dialogue, and without any background music, it just made it that much more uncomfortable to watch.
The other observation was the tone. The best comparison I can make would be Disney's The Sword in the Stone, which takes a very laid back approach to its storytelling. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this film could have gone a little darker and scarier for a scene or two, much like the original source material. James and the Giant Peach I feel understood this the best, as did Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The BFG may not be perfect, but it's still a welcome return to form for Steven Spielberg. The biggest takeaways for sure were Mark Rylance and his chemistry with Ruby Barnhill, the fantastic visual effects, and the surprising comedic moments. This is definitely a film I recommend for the entire family on this 4th of July weekend!
Now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen The BFG, and if so what did you think? Also, what are your favorite Roald Dahl adaptations? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, which is most likely going to be a weird one, Swiss Army Man.