A Hollywood master sends The BFG galumphing into cinemas, returning us all to the glee of childhood.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
If E.T. (1982) was seven-year-old Spielberg, and The Adventures Of Tintin (2011) was seventeen-year-old Spielberg, then The BFG is seventeen-minus-seven-divided-by-seven Spielberg. This is a movie that’s based on the famous children’s book by Roald Dahl, and while little can be done to effectively turn it into a well-rounded fable for adults, it’s hard to get around the sad truth that Spielberg has finally capitulated and captured on film a scene where grown men and women propel themselves off the ground via fart gas.
No doubt the flatulence featured prominently in the book and made kids of all ages squeal with delight, but we’re talking about the queen of England here! She’s supposed to be demure! Restrained! How can she subject herself to a foul expulsion of the inner gas? A part of me was hoping Spielberg would cut away before the inevitable, but I guess he, too, was eager to see what would happen. No doubt his findings disappointed him.
The BFG is, after all, a kid’s movie, to put it plainly. It lacks all the delicate Spielberg touches, save for his trademark visual technique of darkening his set and flooding a beam of white light through softly powdered air. Look elsewhere and you might forget that Spielberg directed it. It feels light, whimsical, almost uncaring.
No, it’s not a bad movie by any means. It is carried aloft by a stupendous motion-capture performance from Mark Rylance as the BFG. His giant is so remarkable and emotive he sometimes feels less like a computer creation and more like a real person stretched to the height of a townhouse. His eyes are small but perceptive. His smile is surprisingly warm for such a gangly creature. We can tell, just by looking at him, that he holds within the compassion and intelligence of a simple man destined to perform heroic deeds.
Next to the giant, Sophie (the little human orphan played by newcomer Ruby Barnhill) is like a wooden marionette prodded into reciting lines. Not that Barnhill is a poor choice for the role or unable to express herself, but more often than not she’s performing in front of a green screen, against a giant who’s not really there, and it shows in her sometimes stilted reactions. It’s a shame that as technology advances, actors have to suffer invisible co-stars.
The plot of the movie involves lots of mean human-consuming giants. In giant-land, they bully and inconvenience the poor BFG, who only wants to live in peace catching dreams and feeding them to sleeping humans all over the little town where the story is set. Sophie and the BFG seek the queen’s help in eradicating the tyrants, and that’s when all the boisterous farting takes over.
This isn’t one of Spielberg’s classics. It’s a light-hearted stopover at a place where parents disappear, giants roam the land, and little orphan girls can save the day.
The BFG is available in Australian cinemas from June 3o
Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures