The BFG (2016)
dir. Steven Spielberg
written by: Melissa Mathison
starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton
2.5 out of 4 stars
Roald Dahl adaptations tend to have magic behind them; no matter how campy (The Witches), kid friendly (Matilda), ridiculous (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), or incentive (Fantastic Mr Fox), the classic children’s author inspires fantasy tales which bridge generations. Funny thing to happen for a man who rather disliked his target audience.
Leave it to Steven Spielberg to handle his “largest” story The BFG, short for Big Friendly Giant. One of the most wealthy, well respected filmmakers still working, if not of all time, teamed with E.T. screenwriter the late Melissa Mathison to bring the runt of the giants to the big screen. In their creation, we find Sophie (the precocious Ruby Barnhill) snatched from her orphanage by the fumbling, garble-mouthed behemoth after she witnessed one of his nocturnal dream deliveries. Retained by the immortal giant in Giantland, Sophie and the BFG find friendship and a shared passion for defeating the cannibal giants who eat the children of the U.K.
A sweet, uncomplicated movie, the film is an amalgamation of 3D effects which add little to the feature and polite conversation from a mismatched duo. Recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance provides the mixed up language for the BFG with his beloved brogue, nearly twinkling behind the kid friendly character design. Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader headline the selection of angry, dimwitted, larger giants, and Ruby Barnhill is not nearly as unbearable as I expected.
The main reason to see this movie is Queen Elizabeth, played by the incomparable Penelope Wilton, with whom the duo plot to rid the country of their cannibal problem. Dressed and wigged as one always finds QE2, Wilton adds humanity and charming accountability to the monarch discovering the mythological creatures terrorizing her country. Tentative at first, Wilton accepts her bizarre challenge with vigor, enthralled to tackle the unexpected task. From awaking from the monster exposing dream to alerting the Reagans of the new menace to eagerly entertaining the clumsy BFG’s breakfast venture, Wilton is a regal, measured and hilarious queen. Helen Mirren be damned; Wilton takes this crown.
As unimpressed as I was with The BFG, I found the movie to be wholesome and family friendly, and if I were six, it would have wowed me. Come find some Dahl magic from this not dull movie, and stay for Queen Wilton, Rylance’s voice and farting corgis.