Published Jun 30, 2016From Tim Burton and Mel Stuart's adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, the work of British children's author Roald Dahl has always made fine fodder for filmmakers. So it was only a matter of time before Steven Spielberg — maker of movies for both adults and kids alike — took it upon himself to rework a classic.
Sadly, The BFG finds Spielberg at his most uninspired, delivering a by-the-book adaptation that, although visually stunning, doesn't leave much of a lasting impression, especially compared to the quality of his earlier family adventures.
For those who grew up reading the 1982 story, nothing has really changed here: Sophie (played with aplomb by Ruby Barnhill in her first major film) lives in a British orphanage, until one day when she spies a mysterious, towering monster stalking the streets and using a strange, trumpet-like instrument. Afraid she'll tell the world of his existence, the creature captures her and takes her back to his homeland.
The cloaked figure in question is the BFG (or Big Friendly Giant, played by Mark Rylance). A relative runt compared to his fellow giants, The BFG swore off eating humans long ago, subsisting solely on snozzcumbers and spending most of his time collecting dreams and returning them to the children of London at night. But when the other giants find out about Sophie's existence, she and the BFG are forced to hatch a plan to save her life and prevent any humans from getting eaten in the future.
Straight off his recent Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, Rylance delivers the strongest performance here, perfectly delivering the BFG's many made-up words and odd mannerisms (Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement is a close second as the giants' leader and lead villain, Fleshlumpeater).
Spielberg, to his credit, is still at the top of his game when it comes to visual storytelling, expertly playing with darkness and light to create a few memorable scenes that bring the BFG's captured dreams to life. If only that dreamlike quality informed the rest of the film.