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Three Views: The BFG

July 1, 2016

The BFG Review By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The BFG PosterAdapting Roald Dahl’s beloved 1982 children’s book to the big screen, Steven Spielberg brings his good old fashioned magic to The BFG, which also happens to be the director’s first production at Disney.  The result is an incredibly charming and emotionally resonant all ages fantasy film, that harkens back to a time when things were simpler and more innocent.

The film follows the budding friendship between bright but lonely young girl Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), and a towering creature who calls himself the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), who takes her from an orphanage in the middle of the night and back to his home in Giant Country.  As it turns out, the BFG is a kindhearted and vegetable-eating soul who is also in need of a friend, mercilessly bullied by a group of towering giants led by cruel Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement), who feast upon human “beans.”

This isn’t a plot-heavy film, and that’s precisely part of its charm.  Much of The BFG is quiet and tender in tone, like a bedtime story that is being told to incite good dreams, and it’s refreshing to see a film that is so intent on being sweet and meaningful.  The film is filled with gorgeous images courtesy of legendary cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, including many beautifully lit nighttime scenes that evoke a sense of wonder.  The production design is visually arresting to behold, and one of the loveliest sequences is a trip to Dream Country, where the BFG captures glowing slivers of coloured light in jars and turns them into dreams, to be blown through windows and into the minds of sleeping children.  This was one of the most charming ideas from Roald Dahl’s book, and it has been wonderfully visualized on screen.

Following his previous collaboration with Steven Spielberg on Bridge of Spies, which led to a much deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Mark Rylance delivers another remarkable showcase of his talents in The BFG.  Bringing the title giant to life with the help of motion capture technology, the actor shines in a nuanced and full-blooded performance, finding rhythm in the cadences of his character’s unusual speech patterns, and bringing a deeply felt undercurrent of longing that shines through his digitally enhanced eyes and face.  It’s exceptional and moving work.  Newcomer Ruby Barnhill also does an excellent job of carrying the film on her small shoulders, continuing in the proud tradition of the many young stars before her who have held their own in Spielberg productions.

This is an almost unexpectedly gentle film, taking time to explore its world and develop the friendship between Sophie and the BFG.  The film is at its best during the quiet scenes between these two, reaching moments of unmatched tenderness that genuinely tug at the heartstrings.  Even the more action-driven finale, including a delightful a trek to visit the Queen (Penelope Wilton), keeps things moving at a more relaxed pace than most modern family films, and the handful of fart jokes interspersed throughout are actually pretty cleverly pulled off.  This is Steven Spielberg returning to the childlike magic of earlier in his career, and the fact that it’s also his last collaboration with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who sadly passed away last year, brings added resonance to the film.

Although overly lofty comparisons to E.T. will inevitably be made, and they do share some DNA, this is a film that works on its own terms, and is often quite lovely at that.  What The BFG give us is a comforting escape into a kinder and gentler world, with enough of that classic Steven Spielberg magic to capture both our hearts and imaginations, ending on a note that is incredibly poignant and bittersweet.

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The BFG Picture 1

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) in The BFG

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The BFG Review By Erin Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Based on the classic children’s story by Roald Dahl, The BFG is a classic and charming family film directed by Steven Spielberg.

The film centres around orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who is taken from her orphanage in the middle of the night by a Big Friendly Giant or BFG (Mark Rylance).  In the world of giants, she discovers that she and BFG are more alike than different, and together they teach each other about their respective parts of the world, ultimately changing both of their lives for the better.  It is a classic family-oriented tale of friendship, dreams, and conquering bullying, and deserves to become a classic.

Both lead performances are really well done, with newcomer Ruby Barnhill aptly holding her own against Oscar-winning Mark Rylance.  Rylance for his own part is perfectly cast as the BFG, and his motion-capture performance is full of all the nuance that really elevates a film like this.  The animation of the giants world is also quite beautiful, in particular the sequences involving floating dreams that surround a tree in a glistening pond.

There are certainly sillier moments in the film, but ones that will certainly be enjoyed by the younger members of the audience as well as the child in all of us.  Overall, I am sure I would have loved this film when I was 10-11 years old, and I must say that I really enjoyed it as an adult as well.  This is a quality piece of family entertainment and I highly recommend giving it a chance no matter what age you are.

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The BFG Picture 2

Sophie and the BFG in Dream Country

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The BFG Review By Tony Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is the first live action/motion capture movie based on the 1982 Roald Dahl book, directed by Steven Spielberg for Disney and starring Mark Rylance in the title role and Ruby Barnhill as the orphan girl Sophie who becomes his friend.

When the giant wandering the streets at night spots Sophie looking at him, he snatches her away to Giant Country because no human “beans” can know about the giants. He will protect her from the nine much bigger giants that crave human flesh and bully him. His own job is to collect dreams and give them out to people in his nightly travels. Sophie comes up with a plan involving the queen (Penelope Wilton) to save them both.

The combination of Dahl’s slightly subversive yet whimsical appeal to kids of all ages and Spielberg’s storytelling is irrestistible. The production challenges of meshing human and giant sizes are flawlessly met, both visually and sonically, supported by a beautiful John Williams score. The cast, which includes Jemaine Clement as a mean giant, and Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall as the queen’s servants, is excellent, but Mark Rylance stands out with every facial expression and gesture perfect for his role, and a rustic English accent that delivers a vocabulary that on paper may seem silly with absolute charm.

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Consensus: Bringing Roald Dahl’s classic book to the screen, Steven Spielberg delivers a charming and emotionally resonant fantasy in The BFG, with beautiful visuals and a remarkable performance from Mark Rylance in the title role. ★★★½ (out of 4)

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