The BFG (aka Big Valley) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
It may have been over thirty years since Steven Spielberg directed the family favorite E.T., but he proves with The BFG that he still hasn’t lost that childhood sense of wonder and adventure. In adapting Roald Dahl’s classic kids book, with a screenplay by E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison no less, Spielberg has crafted a movie that is grand in scale, sweet at heart and innocent in its child-friendly humor.
It’s the perfect bit of wish fulfillment with the young Sophie being the hero of this story. Literally plucked from her London orphanage, she is whisked away to a magical land of giants. Most giants eat people, but not the smallest and scrawniest of them who Sophie dubs as the Big Friendly Giant, a stunning CGI character performed and voiced by Mark Rylance. Seen as the runt by his giant brethren, the BFG happens to be the most intelligent of the giants, but still behind that of human children. Sophie, jumping at the chance to be an expert, teaches the BFG how to speak English more clearly, how to read much better than he already can and how to stand up to the bigger bully giants. In exchange, the BFG reluctantly reveals his curious hobby of capturing dreams and distributing them to the children of London.
Though the bully giants present a threat, it’s not as urgent or as focused on as the relationship of the two leads. The BFG has a laugh over a slimy vegetable stew about Sophie fearing the giant will eat her. The two of them share a dazzling night of catching dreams under a special tree of stars. Sophie later convinces the BFG to introduce himself to the queen and they share a breakfast with all the food the kitchen can muster. These whimsical moments that seem to lack a cohesive plot may some detrimental to the story, but Sophie and the BFG are both such likable characters that I didn’t mind the divergence. I liken the experience to that of My Neighbor Totoro, a movie willing to slow down and enjoy the splendor of its own world.
As expected from Spielberg, the special effects of the giants and their world are amazing. Mark Rylance completely disappears into the role of the titular giant with his skinny frame, balding head and large hands. I especially dug hearing him speak in the giant babble of “whizpoppers” and “snozzcumbers”, an affectation that could have grown annoying, but is genuinely amusing when spoken with such earnest and heart.
“Whizpoppers”, by the way, is giant speak for magical farts that apparently have the same force as a small jet. These are possible through a special drink the BFG has made in which bubbles go down as opposed to up. He decides to share it with the queen and her friends, which leads to one of the most hilarious moments in the entire movie. Childish humor? Perhaps, but nowhere near as disgusting as most fart jokes tend to go and surprisingly charming for a scene where three dogs propel themselves around a room via their whizpoppers.
Despite its massive budget and wandering plot, the BFG is a very comfy picture where children (especially little girls) can see themselves as the heroes, teachers and adventurers in a world of magic and giants. It’s a perfectly light bit of childhood wonder, as in a scene when the BFG relays a silly dream he’s implanted in a sleeping boy. The dream is absurd and all over the place, but most dreams appear that way anyway. The BFG is one odd dream I thoroughly enjoyed, beaming with the same thrilling sights and magical amazement of a child’s wild imagination.