Movie Review: The BFG (2016)

bfg2Steven Spielberg earns a C+ for The BFG (aka The Big Friendly Giant), and this family film is decidedly a GNAS (grower, not a shower), largely languid for nearly two thirds of its length and then unexpectedly rising like a wonder of Gulliver’s wanderlust to its rather lively and even mildly emotional climax. Child actor Ruby Barnhill is charming as a plucky orphan whose awkward custodial Brexit leads her into the hands of the titular tall man, a vegetarian loner charmingly played in unnecessary motion capture by Mark Rylance. Together their friendship blossoms and adventures ensue, complete with Roald Dahl-isms of gobbledegook dialogue that are alternatively delightful and laborious. After some tedious battles with nine unsavory carnivore giant villains and the dreariest depiction of dream-catching imaginable this side of James Cameron’s Pandora, the filmmakers endeavor to discover their stride late in the narrative. The bloated balloon of hideous production design, awkward effects and gloomy atmosphere is finally punctured in a comparatively brisk finale that almost redeems the film. There’s a really imaginative moment when the title character mixes up a dream from his nocturnal cannery, and the way it comes to life would make an inspired short film. This enterprise is closer to the Hook and Tintin side of Spielberg’s unusually uneven family film oeuvre, and one can’t help but remember that he and late screenwriter Melissa Mathison peaked in this genre 34 years ago with their collaboration on E.T. Unfortunately, despite flashes of grandeur, this lugubrious lark is far from his towering achievements.

I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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Posted in 2016

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