I don't remember much detail about Roald Dahl's 1982 children's book "The BFG," but I remember how it made me feel. I know that after I put that book down, the world seemed like a much larger place: a world filled with mysteries I would never understand or even discover. For moments throughout "The BFG" I was transported back to that feeling again, if only briefly.
"The BFG" tells the tale of Sophie, a young orphan girl who sees a hooded giant outside her window late one night. The giant kidnaps her and spirits her away to Giant Country, a place not on any map, inhabited by a handful of other giants who love the taste of humans. Luckily, the giant who took Sophie is The Big Friendly Giant, who would rather eat snozzcumbers and catch dreams than eat a little girl. They become best friends and go on adventures, and everyone (except the bad giants) lives happily ever after.
"The BFG" is directed by Steven Spielberg, who fills every frame of the movie with iconic and memorable imagery that makes the world of Giant Country feel like a lived-in place. While the films aren't remotely comparable, "The BFG" made me think of "Independence Day: Resurgence" in how they're both primarily special effects-driven films, but "Resurgence" felt like a video game, whereas this had me captivated.
The section of the film where Sophie and The BFG go hunting for dreams is one of the most astoundingly shot and imagined bits of filmmaking I've seen all year. Even though he mostly backs away from some of the bigger ideas and darker themes, Spielberg is still assuredly working at the top of his game.
Mark Rylance (fresh off his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "Bridge of Spies") is The BFG, and his work vocally as well as in the motion capture animation is breathtaking. The range of emotions given to this animated creation is groundbreaking, and I never looked at the BFG as anything other than a living, breathing character.
Up until the final act of the film, I thought I was watching an absolute classic, but there is a serious case of tonal whiplash that threatens to derail the entire movie. Before Sophie, The BFG has another child companion who was tragically eaten by the other giants. When Sophie finds the dead child's dusty room filled with his drawings and plans for the future, it is a haunting moment played beautifully by 11-year old Ruby Barnhill. Ten minutes later we get pratfalls and fart jokes, which, while true to the book, don't seem as organic to the tone of the film Spielberg was making.
The third-act problems aside, "The BFG" is a big hearted and beautiful family film with some of the most astounding imagery of the year. Whether you are a child or an adult fan of the novel, there is magic to be had in this movie, if you know where to look.
Dir. Steven Spielberg
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16