Spielberg’s The BFG brings old magic of Disney to a new generation (review)

As a child, I used to read a lot! And not just the books that everyone else read, nope. I read EVERYTHING, from encyclopedias to dictionaries, hymn books to restaurant take-out menus; anything with words I was unaware of, I would collect it, and read it, over and over again. Unique words were something that had a sense of magic to me, as if someone had created them and spoke them out into the world, for all of us to find, and, eventually, put them in Ming Garden Express’s take-out menu. Now that I’ve grown up (somewhat), I’ve come to realize a lot of those words were unique languages that certain cultures, in actuality, spoke, scientists understood, and choirs sung, more often than I had known. There was, however, one particular author whose books seemed to create a unique language with each page, and I had no idea what or where he got it from! Even as an adult, I have no idea of the origin of some of the words he used, but I do know one thing: they always made sense in the stories he’d masterfully in. And now, we have an opportunity to see another one of his wondrous works put to the big screen, in all its scrumdiddlyumptious glory!

I’m talking about Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of one of Roald Dahl’s whimsical books, The BFG. The story follows as an orphaned girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children. With her new friend by her side, the BFG and Sophie embark on an incredible journey filled with peril, fun, and plenty of Frobscottle (I’ll explain in a bit)!

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Author Roald Dahl has become synonymous with all things whimsical and fantastical, those qualities being reflected in many films ranging from 1968’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, to more recent titles such as 1996’s Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, and his most recent adaptation, 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (my favorite of all his novels). Dahl creates a sense of awe and wonder with each of his works, and without a doubt, throws his own unique take of everyday things. From creating lickable wallpaper, to personifying an entire network of underground animals bent on survival, or even fabricating a drink for giants called Frobscottle, that causes extreme flatulence, Dahl exceeded the imagination of most children’s writers in those days.

Taking such a unique story, written by such a unique storyteller, and placing it in the hands of an incredible director such as Steven Spielberg, was a superb decision on Disney’s part. Spielberg took the tale of Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant and created an experience that takes you back, not to a time, but to a feeling. the feeling of when you first experienced a true Disney classic, such as Cinderella, or Snow White, or even Beauty and the Beast; the feeling of true awe and wonder, as only Disney can. With the help of late screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who also worked with Spielberg on ET the Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg was able to bring to life a tale that didn’t feel like a new movie, but a visit with an old friend.

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Although it was heavily laden with CGI, the film was nevertheless beautiful, as it incorporated incredible shots that embodied the very essence of Dahl’s novel. Each scene that Spielberg translated on to the big screen seemed to appear with a sense of enchantment, from the shot of the Dream Tree atop the large hill that is level with clouds, to the visage of breathing hills of grass, hiding the giants sleeping underneath the soil. Spielberg is not one to forget the importance of cinematography, and he hits the nail on the head with this one, as each scene is a work of art.

Among all this, however, the film wouldn’t be a success without the great talents of the cast. Mark Rylance gives a stellar performance as the Big Friendly Giant, showcasing not only his vocal acting talents, but also his motion capture ability as well. Rylance, although not too familiar with motion capture, said he still had great time with it. According to the National Post, Rylance stated that the experience was “not unlike being in the rehearsal room of a theatre play. Sometimes there aren’t props … and you just have to use your imagination. There’s no sense of where the audience is, there’s no camera or any need to hit marks. There was just Ruby and I playing.” Through the warmth of his voice, and the expertise and poise he showed as the character, Rylance truly gives fans a character they can believe. And speaking of Ruby, Ruby Barnhill, the fresh face of Sophie, is absolutely adorable! Her ability to portray her strength and independence, yet transition so well to innocence, was flawless. I’m excited to see what else Miss Barnhill will have to offer Hollywood in the upcoming years.

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Yes, the film is far from perfect, as are most things. Many critics are already going out on their outlets, bashing the film for whatever reasons. The thing I find most interesting about those thoughts, however, are that they are lacking one key instrumental little detail in their articles: a child’s perspective. Yes, for adults, many of you will see this film and walk out of the theaters wondering what the heck you just saw. That’s one of those things that, unfortunately, we can’t change; we grow up. But taking in to consideration that this film, made by Disney, and made for children, yet is already taking hits because of the “humor” and plot holes, is interesting to me. I sat in the theater for the screening of this film, and alongside me were at least 100 kids of all ages, excited with anticipation to see the film. When the movie was over, yes, there were a few adults that were mumbling and grumbling, but every child I saw, walked out of that theater with smiles on their faces, telling their parents that they want friends who are giants too, stomping out of the theater like the BFG. I think that should be something to consider; yes, you may be an adult, grown and with grown-up responsibilities, but don’t come in to this film thinking that you need to examine it. Come in to it, and let the film take you to a place where you feel like one of those kids; a place where you can look at the wondrous world of giants, the dreams that live amongst the tree on a hill, and a young girl and her giant, and just smile.

Rating: 4/5 Atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B

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Eddie Villanueva Jr.
Eddie Villanueva Jr. 298 posts

A movie connoisseur of only the finest films, and an Encyclopod of geek and nerd knowledge. And if you know what an Encyclopod is, you're cool too!

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