We had a chance to get a sneak peek at “The BFG” this week, thanks to Walt Disney Studios. All opinions are my own.
When we were at the D23 Expo last August, I found out that Steven Spielberg had teamed up with Disney to create a movie version of one of my favorite childhood books: Roald Dahl’s “The BFG“. I was super excited for the chance to see it earlier this week… and then I was super unsure whether I wanted to.
Just before we left, I was looking for a bit of a heads-up on what to expect for my kids. Instead, I came across scathing reviews over, and over, and over again. Apparently, the movie was boring and completely lacking and awful. At least, that’s what several critics were writing.
You guys, I’m really glad we still went. My daughters and I had a girls night out, and all three of us (ultimately) thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
Critic reviews aren’t all wrong. What Dahl does in The BFG is probably nearly impossible to capture on screen. The world-building and imagination-inciting of the novel makes it a really special read. I do think the film occasionally falls a bit short of the super magical experience many of us had as we read the book growing up, but it’s far from boring.
In The BFG, a young girl named Sophie accidentally discovers the existence of giants – the big, friendly version as well as the human-eating “grind their bones to make my bread” variety. The story follows Sophie as she discovers Giant Country, and as the two main characters develop a special, exemplary friendship.
Sophia and the BFG have a lot in common with one another, especially characteristics like loneliness and kindness, that make for some really good conversations after watching the movie with younger viewers. Each learn hard truths about being quick to judge people that are different They learn incredible lessons about trust and bravery. They learn about faith in others, which is something about which we we all could use a reminder.
Steven Spielberg has apparently been dabbling with the idea of an adaptation of The BFG for decades, “waiting for the technology to catch up with the story’s fantastical demands.” I think it has, and (no surprise to anyone who has seen his previous body of cinematic classics) Spielberg makes excellent use of the technology in creating worlds of fantasy. Mark Rylance’s character – and the team that brought him to life in one of the most spectacular displays of motion capture I’ve seen to date – is charming and real and raw and wonderful. The unique worlds we see are breathtakingly beautiful, and seamlessly blend the digital with the real.
There were scenes, especially in the beginning, that made my 8-year-olds nervous. Nothing is overtly scary or at all inappropriate, but the first 15 minutes are spent raising the viewers’ anxiety through use of dark nights in a big, creaky house, spooky noises, etc. I think this works well; since the BFG himself is not truly scary or dangerous, and the scenes actually aren’t even startling, the build-up of tension increases engagement when watching. Viewers are brought along, wondering just what is going to happen – especially if one hasn’t read the book. There are other scenes that are funny for a bit, then a gag goes on too long. There are lines and cuts that are a bit cheesy, even for a Dahl adventure, and then there are images that are masterful works of art, perfectly Spielberg-esque, such as when we see the BFG hide in plain sight on busy city streets. The inclusion of the Queen of England, while true to the story, feels contrived and unrealistic. (I mean, unrealistic enough to pull me out of even a fantasy world.) Perhaps when I read it as a child it didn’t seem so far-fetched, or maybe it’s the act of putting it on the screen that made the juxtaposition between the fantasy world and the one in which I live a bit odd. The BFG’s “squiggly”, mixed up vocabulary, the attempt to move him through (a far-too-small) Buckingham Palace to a fancy table set just for him, and other scenes get the humor just right.
Fans of the novel may find the ending different enough to be bugged, but as book-to-screen adaptations go, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen. No major arcs or characters are destroyed; instead, I think it’s clear Spielberg has great respect for the original story.
At the end of the day, The BFG is a wonderful, whimsical film. Is it the most important movie of all time (or even of the summer)? Far from it. But we laughed out loud (even at low-brow jokes), my daughters found it completely magical as a whole, and we had some great conversations. That’s a huge win, in my opinion, and reason enough for a night out at the movies.
Have you seen The BFG yet? What did you think?