Film Review: The BFG

by Chad Liffmann on July 1, 2016

BFG delivers the magic, the humor, and the 3D.

Sophie and The BFG soak up the 3D rendered beauty.

Sophie and The BFG soak up the computer generated beauty.

There was a moment while watching The BFG that I snapped ever-so-briefly out of my trance and realized that I had been fully swept up in the magical atmosphere that Steven Spielberg had created in his cinematic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story. It’s not often that I become immersed in a movie. Or rather, it’s not often that a movie can effectively invite me to get immersed in it. The BFG is one of the few. It’s not a perfect movie — it falls just shy from delivering a rewarding emotional peak and contains some moments of directionless storytelling. However, from an entertainment standpoint, The BFG is like a wondrous and inventive bedtime story. It’s a truly magical family-friendly film from start to finish.

Steven Spielberg is no stranger to directing young actors, and The BFG is another example of his effectiveness in doing so. Ruby Barnhill has only previously appeared in an unknown short-lived TV Series, 4 O’Clock Club. Barnhill is wonderful as young Sophie, the curious and brave girl who gets kidnapped by the BFG and swept off to Giant Country. She has a natural maturity that comes through in her vocal delivery and she shows remarkable control over the subtleties in her expressions. She’s a perfect partner to Mark Rylance’s BFG. Spielberg employs Rylance’s brilliantly nuanced motion-capture performance then layers over it with incredibly realistic animation that borders on the uncanny valley. You can easily see Rylance in the BFG’s face, and his voice is both heartwarming and delicate as he smoothly navigates the silly and bizarre diction of Dahl’s writing. To put it simply, the acting is superb whether its live-action or motion capture.

The film follows the story quite closely. You may think that the third act goes way off course, but no, in fact it doesn’t. I won’t spoil the surprise in case you can’t remember or haven’t read the book. However, Giant Country, where The BFG brings Sophie and where the other Giants try to eat her, is fantastically shot and animated. Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s mainstay cinematographer, does a remarkable job with tracking the camera around The BFG’s home and filling the screen with his collection of vibrantly colored bottled dreams. When outside, the terrain is bursting with life — the swaying fields, flowing clouds, and towering rock formations. The film glows! And I rarely recommend seeing films in 3D, but the depth at which Giant Country can be experienced beyond 2D is noticeable and worth the extra money. There are a few sequences that prove to be a little dizzying in 3D, but you’ll get over it quickly.

And there’s plenty of humor to boot! Just wait until you see and hear the whizzpoppers. Spielberg teamed up again with the late Melissa Mathison, the extremely gifted screenwriter of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, to adapt and deliver a script that balances charm with whimsical action and joyful humor. The BFG truly is a joy to watch. I can easily imagine The BFG being a welcome addition to the annual holiday season TV lineup. It contains the type of childhood wonder present in many of Spielberg’s classics, and more importantly, the type of wonder found in Dahl’s classic stories.

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The BFG comes out Friday, July 1st.

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