With years of movie magic under his belt, Spielberg and late-screenwriter Melissa Mathison (E.T.) begin with a CGI Mark Rylance stumbling through the streets of London at 3 A.M. before locking eyes with a nocturnal orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). Fearing the gossip she could spread of such a preposterous topic as giants, he snatches her and takes her back to his homeland, an expansive grassland where other giants mostly just sleep and complain about being hungry. In the typical imagination of Dahl, these other, meaner giants are only hungry for children (also known as “human beans”), which causes a scandalous bullying conflict between the vegetarian BFG and these other giant assholes. Spielberg’s an expert at incorporating the CGI amongst human life, and his giant-human interactions are no hindrance. Every pore and hair of Rylance’s distorted head is extremely visible and uncannily realistic, and it adds to some of the movie’s humor to see this big man navigate his way around human-sized hallways and pick up Sophie like a feather.
Nothing really happens in The BFG, and I suppose that’s really what made the book so special. Here’s humble illustrations of a giant dressed in haggard clothing roaming around with a small Sophie on his shoulder, showing her magical settings like Dream Country, where colorful dreams hum over lakes like gnats, with not one care about the logistics of any of it. It was a blissful fictional universe with no urgency, and I don’t believe that idea translates well to cinema no matter what director, and especially not to a director who’s so experienced in conflict (Jaws, Jurassic Park). As a result, The BFG feels very drowsy in it’s storytelling, but visually, it’s like a Miyazaki movie come to life.
With it’s title mythical creature who teaches all humans about life and acceptance by the third act, it’s become evident as to why Spielberg would pick up a movie like The BFG. This is the last credited work by the late and great Melissa Mathisson, and I spent much of the movie’s runtime bathing in the childlike wonder that her writing is so known for. Maybe kids will find The BFG more amusing than I did, but the most true fun I had was imagining the reality of Spielberg sitting in a Director’s chair and conducting an entire fart scene. The BFG is a pleasant sight to behold, but it’s inherently dreamy nature leads to an unfortunately sleepy and wholly insignificant piece of live-action cinema.
Grade : C