I had the pleasure of seeing “The BFG” a couple of weeks ago, something I was incredibly excited about having been a Roald Dahl fan most of my life. Disney’s live action film directed by Stephen Spielberg is coming at the perfect time, at the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth, who wrote the book on which the film is based.
A Fantasy-genre movie is hard to pull off. A Family-Fantasy-genre movie is even more so. Rules, limitations, and sometimes entire languages have to be crammed into a relatively short run-time, all the while being tasked with having a fun and entertaining story. And it must also be magical. After having seen Disney & Spielberg’s adaptation of “The BFG“, I came to a conclusion: This movie is what all other Family-Fantasy-genre movies wish they could be.
Spielberg wastes no time starting the story, jumping right into the life of young orphan girl Sophie (played by Ruby Barnhill) as she accidentally spies a gangly giant skulking by her window. As a result she is whisked away to Giant Country, where the giant (known only as the Big, Friendly Giant, or BFG, played by Mark Rylance) keeps and protects Sophie from the other bigger, less-friendly giants, led by man-eating bully The Fleshlumpeater(played by Jemaine Clement).
Shining at the center of a charming cast of actors is Rylance, who, as the BFG, brings amazing warmth to a mostly CGI character. His slow, simple, English Countryside dialect paired with his ridiculous gibberish-like vocabulary consistently draws the audience in. Even as he first appears stern and grumpy toward young Sophie, this vanishes as the two begin their friendship based on their respective solitude.
The visuals of Giant Country create the magic of the film. With near-perfect motion capture technology, all the giant characters, as grotesque and exaggerated as they may be, appear as real as their human co-stars. Settings such as the BFG’s cave home are wonderfully detailed as a child would imagine a giant’s cottage, full of human trinkets used for giant purposes, such as a three-mast sailboat for a bed. And John Williams’ score dials up the enchantment even further, making the world feel magical and unusual, but familiar in a child’s eyes.
The movie, although definitely great for families, might have some mildly scary moments to very young children. I think any child 5 or above would enjoy the film. “The BFG” hits theaters July 1st.