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Steven Spielberg finally returns to one of the genres he cut his bones on – Children’s fables/fantasy in The Big BFG. This should be a cause for celebration but somehow his stint into more serious fair has muted his childlike wonder. Or maybe it’s screenwriter’s Melissa Mathison (Screenplay) painfully, tedious, inert script that sinks this entire Roald Dahl (Novel) affair. Moments of visual splendor in service of nothing. Any film that resorts to fart jokes is creatively bankrupt.
The BFG like all Disney films features yet another motherless child (I’m really getting tired of this meme), an orphan named Sophie (relative newcomer Ruby Barnhill) who gets kidnapped (for no explainable reason) by a lonely giant who calls himself the BFG (Mark Rylance). Later in the film he explains he wants people to think of him as the Big Friendly Giant (get it, BFG), yeah, I rolled my eyes hard as well.
It’s been awhile since I’ve actively hated a movie, but this one came darn close. After the first 20 -minutes I had the sinking feeling that this film was going to end up going nowhere. BFG seemed to be weirdly stuck between wanting to be a CGI feast for the eyes and being a warm, fuzzy children’s fable, ultimately failing at both. The visuals looked drab and mostly lifeless and the story lacked any kind of depth – emotional or otherwise.
There were a couple of beautiful sequences, one where BFG and Sophie are running through a forest of dreams and a cute moment that showed the BFG running and hiding through the streets of London. These rare moments of joy kept me hoping that maybe things would turn a corner and it would eventually live up to it’s potential. Spielberg clearly wanted to go more towards character building than world building, unfortunately the characters weren’t interesting.
We’re supposed to be in Giant Land, but other than seeing giants, there’s nothing exceptional, whimsical, or awe inspiring to see. The other giants are just big disgusting creatures. Their idea of fun is to cruelly bully The BFG. Sophie keeps asking him to fight back, which is easier said than done, when these giants make even the BFG look like a pipsqueak. Just once, one time, I’d like to see a movie about Giants where they are intelligent, cultured people instead being treated like they are dirty, overgrown babies.
The BFG is unoriginal, bland and not a good return to form for Steven Spielberg. The film lacked whimsy, warmth and awe.
Final Grade D