Of all the films released this summer, The BFG was always going to be one of my favorites. I’m increasingly appreciative of Spielberg, and this was screaming “classic.”
It’s not a classic, but that’s always unfair to expect from any motion picture. It is cute, though, and at times delightful.
Mark Rylance plays the titular giant, who steals Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) in the night, taking her to Giant Country. He’s a lot smaller than the other giants, and they bully him, and Sophie hatches a plan to get rid of the giants. I still don’t know if the whole movie was building to that, or if the characters just decided it towards the end. The movie tends to be less about the plot than the feel of it all.
Regardless, the film finds it way eventually, and there are moments when it’s really magnifilous. (The giants make up words you really need context to understand.)
Rylance, who won an Oscar for Bridge of Spies, is perfectly cast as the BFG. He’s just recently gotten into film after a legendary stage career, and he just might be Steven Spielberg’s new secret ingredient. Barnhill is also marvelous, and the supporting cast (Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, and Rafe Spall) do fine jobs.
What’s truly special about this film, though, are the special effects, which fairly realistically scale the world to each of the individual characters. You can’t imagine that they would build a copper bowl that’s as big as Sophie, but they just might have. This is where the real magic of the film lies, and there is plenty of it.
The Queen plays a crucial role in this film, but that entire section of the plot is reserved for the final third. You barely get a mention before that. There is a scene where the BFG is eating dinner with the Queen, and never before has a fart joke been played to such an uproarious effect by a respectable filmmaker. It’s worth an entire family’s price of admission. You’ll see what I mean.
The BFG is a mildly uneven film, alternating between moments of droll plot and genuine movie magic. But when it works, it really soars. In a summer full of duds, it’s nice to see a film that knows how to leap every now and then.
The BFG is in theaters now.
It is dedicated to its screenwriter, the late Melissa Mathison. That dedication was the only part of the film that made me cry.