Though I may have outgrown it, The BFG proves that my favorite director, Steven Spielberg, still has that magic that very few directors bring to their “Kid’s Movies.” While not as enduring and endearing as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (wow, Spielberg loves his acronyms), a film I still enjoy as an adult, that “Spielberg Magic & Wonderment” is back, after being absent in his last children’s film, The Adventures of Tintin, and not appropriate for his recent run of historical dramas. While not among his greatest works (the man is far too prolific), The BFG feels like classic Spielberg from a different era, which is always a fantastic thing!
NO SPOILERS present in this review.I may have mentioned magic and wonderment (I have), as that’s what The BFG has in Spades, and is its greatest strength. If anything, the plot often gets lost in the magical realm of giants. Similar to the wonderful Children’s Film, Coraline, as well as (nearly) every Tim Burton film, The BFG has a style over substance problem. It’s a slow moving film that really, really pulls off all the visuals, from the startlingly realistic appearance of the CGI Giants to the beautiful tree of dreams, and even the foggy streets of London. It is certainly a lovely looking film that also finds visual charm in the way Big Friendly Giant (who apparently doesn’t have an actual name, unless I missed it) utilizes regular size objects across his whimsical, giant home.
The plot isn’t terrible; this is a fairly good Spielberg film, everyone. The film lingers on the most magical elements, and when there is a big plot point or progression, it feels rushed, as if to get it out of the way. The narrative itself isn’t great for a film and it contains little tension, but I assume it’s because it’s tethered to the source material, “The BFG” by Roald Dahl. The wrap up is a little convenient and doesn’t feel earned, feeling more like an afterthought than the finale to a Summer Blockbuster, meant for kids or otherwise. That being said, there are several very poignant scenes made even more wonderful by fantastic actors like Mark Rylance, Spielberg’s current Muse.The main cast is glorious under the direction of arguably the Greatest Director of All Time, from the aforementioned Mark Rylance to newcomer Ruby Barnhill. Rylance voices and did full motion capture to bring BFG to life, and if this Giant looks vaguely familiar, that’s because Rylance won an Academy Award for playing the Russian Spy in last year’s Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies. As I also mentioned, Rylance is Spielberg’s current Muse (this director’s Tom Hanks days may be over), attached to Spielberg’s next two movies, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and Ready Player One; also rumored to be on the cast list for Indiana Jones 5. In her 1st film, Ruby Barnhill as Sophie thrives under the direction of veteran “Child Director” Steven Spielberg. As proven by E.T., A.I. Artificial Intelligence (acronyms again!), Jurassic Park, and Hook, among others, Spielberg has President status over the exclusive club of directors who can make Child Stars shine, membership including J.J. Abrams (Super 8) and Richard Donner (The Goonies). The BFG is no exception to his legacy.
THE BFG is a strong Spielberg Children’s Film that hearkens back to his classic 80’s films like E.T., with a very modern touch of CGI magic he couldn’t have pulled off thirty years ago. If you are a fan of his work, not even a Geek, just a normal person who recognizes his uber-Household Name and allows it to slightly sway your movie going decisions, then “Sway away!” Even if it won’t go down as one of his best films, it is a great addition to Spielberg’s monumental career. But… there are Fart Jokes. Two scenes of Fart Jokes! Which would normally piss me off in a Spielberg movie (in an interview he says he’s never done one), but again, it’s from the source material, and they aren’t awful Fart Jokes like every other Children’s Film… ever… they’re… charming.
Magic and Wonderment, man. Magic and Wonderment.
And Fart Jokes. (Not one… plural! I want to make that very clear.)