Like its title character, Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG” is a large, warm, lovable, and sometimes goofy film without any teeth. Okay, so technically The Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) has teeth, but the film is lacking the signature Roald Dahl darkness of the original tale.
In the interest of not completely selling the film short, I’ll focus on what it does have first.
“The BFG,” tells a sweet story about two lonely souls—Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), an orphan, and The BFG, the runt of the giants.
When Sophie spots the The BFG delivering dreams during the witching hour (3 am), he snatches her out of her bed and whisks her away to Giant Country, a far away place where The BFG and nine man-eating giants live.
Thinking she’s on the menu, Sophie immediately makes a break for it, but is stopped by The BFG who explains he had to take her so she wouldn’t tell the whole world about him…more or less. The kind-hearted BFG has a unique “squiggly” way of talking that gets the message across even if his words aren’t always correct.
Sophie, who has a take charge attitude, makes it clear that she will continue to try and runaway, but decides to help The BFG when she sees how he’s treated by the much larger child-eating giants. I won’t spoil anything, but the plan involves the Queen of England and one heck of a nightmare. Needless to say, all ends well for Sophie and The BFG.
It’s a sweet film, but never has the terror (or at least anxiety) that you would expect in a film about child-eating giants. Most of the film is spent explaining The BFG and his actions (or inaction). To counteract the vile behavior of his fellow giants, he captures dreams in the stunning Dream Land, and delivers them to humans (via their noses) with his dream horn. It’s a sweet sequence, but the pacing can leave you tempted to take a personal trip to “dream land.”
The film also delivers a rather heavy-handed, but important message about listening. A skill which The BFG is quite good at thanks to his rather large ears. However, it’s hidden beneath just a little too much unsubstantial wonder and whimsy.
What the film does get right is The BFG himself. Played by Mark Rylance with some help from a lot of computer animation, he is the character created by Roald Dahl. Sweet, soft spoken, and hoping to add some light to a dark world.
…just for fun: