Movie review: Disney's 'The BFG'
I have a confession to make: I didn’t love Disney’s “The BFG.” I suspect that fans of Roald Dahl's classic story of the same name will feel differently about the movie, and that’s fine. I, too, have enjoyed watching my favorite books come to life on the screen, regardless of the movie’s quality.
But if I’m critiquing the movie from the viewpoint of someone who hasn’t read the book and doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the story, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) wasn’t a film I would necessarily recommend to families. It is long – at just about two hours – and it drags, despite the special effects and a title character portrayed by an award-winning actor.
For those not familiar with the original story, it is based on a 10-year-old orphan girl’s friendship with a Big Friendly Giant. Without giving too much away, the BFG is lives in Giant Country, which means that when he and Sophie go to his home, they have to be prepared to hide her at a moment’s notice from the other giants who eat people. Eventually, they must enlist the help of the Queen of England in order to stop the giants.
As my 13-year-old son pointed out, “It doesn’t seem like there is a climax to the story.” And perhaps that’s the crux of the problem: “The BFG” meanders along, faithfully retelling the story, but the action – physical or dramatic – doesn’t build quickly enough to leave viewers engaged. Of course, there are the giants who love to snack on humans, but even those scenes seem more cartoonish than scary.
It’s also difficult to feel invested in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of “The BFG” because the relationship between The Big Friendly Giant (played by Mark Rylance) and Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) doesn’t evolve. The audience sees them become friends, but we don’t feel like they have established a real bond. And so, when they are forced to part company, the separation isn’t a tear-jerker.
“The BFG” is rated PG for “action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor.” Frankly, the “rude humor” is the funniest part of the movie. The BFG’s favorite drink, a "frobscottle," is unique because its bubbles flow backwards, causing the person who drinks it to suffer the bubbles exiting downward, too. When the frobscottle is shared with the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) and others in Buckingham Palace, hilarity ensues. It’s definitely a laugh-out-loud scene.
My 11-year-old daughter recalled reading “The BFG” at school and was looking forward to the film adaptation. I think she liked it better than my son and I did. Unfortunately, though, “The BFG” is no Spielberg classic like “E.T.”
DISCLAIMER: I viewed “The BFG” at a media screening before its official release. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.