McCoy on Movies: The BFG

McCoy on Movies: The BFG

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See what our movie critic has to say about Steven Spielberg's version of the beloved Roald Dahl children's book, the Big Friendly Giant.

“Of course we’re smiling – e have the most teeth of any British cast in a movie this summer!” Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) enjoys a moment with her friend “Runt” (Mark Rylance) in a scene from director Steven Spielberg’s take on Roald Dahl’s THE BFG. © 2016 Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC. All rights reserved.




KEY CAST MEMBERS: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Jermaine Clement, Bill Hader, Rafe Spall, Penelope Wilton and Rebecca Hall 

WRITER(S): Roald Dahl (novel on which the film is based); Melissa Mathison (screenplay)
DIRECTOR(S): Steven Spielberg

THE STORY AS BEST WE KNOW IT: Taken from the pages of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl’s second-to-last novel, The BFG tells the story of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). Who is Sophie you ask? A precocious 10 year-old living in an orphanage in London who habitually stays up later than everyone else reading her books at night. One reason she stays up, however, is to avoid being taken by the boogeyman-like spectre she’s heard rumors about. Then one night she looks out her window and sees a pair of rather large eyes staring back at her – which is when she realizes those rumors weren’t just rumors, but a warning about the 24-foot tall creature (voiced by Mark Rylance) standing in front of her.Initially scared when the creature takes her captive, she soon finds herself in Giant Country where she learns three things: (1) the creature is not scary at all, but a simple (both in mind and spirit) soul she quickly comes to refer to as the BFG, or “Big Friendly Giant” (2) his fear of humans – whose dreams he cultivates for them to enjoy – and being discovered is one reason he informs her she can never return to the orphanage, but that’s not as big a concern for Sophie as is the fact that (3) he’s the only friendly one in Giant Country. For the rest of the giants like Bloodblotter (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jermaine Clement) call the BFG “Runt” since they are at least twice his size and aren’t very friendly … Unless you consider eating human “beans” like Sophie a friendly activity.

That’s a problem because with their keen sense of smell, the giants become quickly aware of Sophie’s presence – and they are hungry. And as children go missing from London, Sophie and the BFG – who prefers the taste of Snozzcumber and Frobscottle  to humans – realize they must devise a plan to stop the giants and save the townspeople in the process.

Oh, the power of dreams has never had such a magical touch …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS MOVIE THE MOST? Children under double digit age; Roald Dahl enthusiasts; Steven Spielberg diehards; those who enjoy happy, silly stories

WHO WILL HATE THIS MOVIE THE MOST? Adults and children who prefer animated tales with emotional depth vs. heavy-handed emotional manipulation; those who are over silly for the sake of silly children’s stories; those with short attention spans
SO IS IT GOOD, GREAT, JUST ALL RIGHT OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? The BFG is everything you’d think one would want in a Disney movie backed by the power of Steven Spielberg. It’s got a sweet sentimental story, a strong acting performance from its young lead in Ruby Barnhill, very wonderfully animated scenes and of course, the Disney/Spielberg/Dahl pedigree to deliver an emotionally stirring, sweet cinematic experience.

Except it doesn’t. It’s just overdone, over syrupy, sweet and silly and worse yet, at certain points, plodding more than the BFG himself. 

I’m not sure what it says about the film that you almost feel bad for young Ruby Barnhill for having to carry the story with all the adults around her acting silly so that she is the only one you really have any concern for. While all his funny words and misunderstandings may work well on the written page, once spoken, The BFG often sounds and feels like a bad bedtime story for immature children. Whereas Barnhill is the only one that often seems like she’s being plausible (and in turn believable) in the whole affair, the adults are a bit too childish for you to take the picture seriously. Throw in some extremely heavy-handed let’s build sympathy moments for the BFG that don’t feel organic and the movie becomes kids stuff very quickly. This is not to suggest that The BFG is horrible; this is to suggest however that it is very underwhelming and unless you just like happy stories, The BFG is likely to make you think of other words for its acronym …Which is a shame, because a bad freakin’ gag is awaiting anyone who thinks the movie is the perfect little tale of whimsy its creators and cast think that it is.