Movie Review – The BFG
I love Steven Spielberg, but this movie bored me to death. It’s an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, and in many ways feels like other Dahl books that have been translated to the big screen with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox. It does feel like James and the Giant Peach, Matilda as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, Spielberg and his writer Melissa Mathison have watered down the elements that tap into Dahl’s dark comedy and sense of the macabre. For example, this movie is about cannibalistic giants that mostly eat children. It’s not that Spielberg needed to depict it, but it’s more or less a throwaway line. There is no sense of the horror that is literally at hand, the danger. It comes off as nothing but a juvenile farce. The giants have no weight. It’s too cartoon-like, fluffy and cutesy that might have even little children yawning.
If it feels like any other Spielberg film, it feels like Hook (1991). Yet, that movie isn’t afraid to depict the death of a child. The central performance by Robin Williams isn’t restricted at all. Neither is the supporting performance by Dustin Hoffman. Here, the central performance by Mark Rylance is restricted. Spielberg might argue it’s enhanced due to all the CG, but there is a reason Rylance won the Oscar and it wasn’t because he had a long neck and big ears that can flap like Dumbo.
The supporting performance by Jemaine Clement who plays the leader of the cannibalistic giants, named Fleshlumpeater, is enhanced. Obviously, the character on-screen needs to be big and scary. Old illustrations portray him as fat, nasty and ugly. His design here portrays him more like a viking, a rough, hirsute beefcake with bad teeth as his only physical defect. Clement does good voice-work, but Fleshlumpeater’s menace is less than effective. I wasn’t scared of him.
The writing fails to get us to understand the BFG. He’s distinctive because he’s the one giant that isn’t cannibalistic. He doesn’t want to get caught, so it’s never explained why the BFG is even in London. When a little girl in an orphanage named Sophie, played by Ruby Barnhill, sees him, he kidnaps her and takes her to his home just outside the United Kingdom. Despite the kidnapping, Sophie befriends the BFG, but this opens up so many questions about what either is thinking.
The BFG tells Sophie she’s going to be essentially his prisoner forever. Being in a land of cannibalistic giants, how does he think keeping her there is a good idea? What kind of life does he think or does she think she’ll have? She’ll never have a career. She’ll never fall in love or have a family. Obviously, she’s going to have to return to the UK.
Not having read the Dahl book, it’s not clear if there are any explanation of the giants and where they came from or how long they’ve existed. There aren’t female giants, so they can’t make more giants but it begs the question of who made them.
Fleshlumpeater states his hunger, which is a basic, animalistic need and desire. There are other basic, animalistic needs and desires, like the need and desire to procreate. Yes, this is a children’s film, but when a screenplay is so incredibly dull and drags as this one does with stupid gags, including a really stupid, fart joke, one can’t help but think of off-topic things like where do baby giants come from.
One Star out of Five.
Rated PG for peril, some scary moments and rude humor.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.