Ten-year-old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). Naturally scared at first, the young girl soon realizes that the 24-foot behemoth is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie’s presence attracts the unwanted attention of Bloodbottler (Bill Hader), Fleshlumpeater (Jermaine Clement) and other giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must convince Queen Victoria (Penelope Wilton) to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all.
Again with another film based on a book. This one by Roald Dahl, the same author behind Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory which has also spawned two films. There will be nostalgia for some people but a lot of others should also be drawn by the chance to see the combination of Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance once again after working together in Bridge of Spies. This was when I was introduced to Rylance and I’ve been a big fan ever since. When it came to guessing their next project, maybe this would not be the first that comes to mind but this is definitely in great hands.
The plot doesn’t take long to get started here, maybe at its own detriment, with Sophie (Barnhill) running into a giant for whom she later names BFG, or Big Friendly Giant, (Rylance). Afraid that she would tell the world about what she saw, the giant grabs Sophie from an orphanage and takes her back to his home in Giant Country. Over time, her fear of him goes away and she soon realized that he wasn’t so bad.
Sophie was obviously afraid of him at first but the two were able to bond over sort of being outcasts. While the other giants are big, scary, child-munching monsters, the BFG is roughly half their size and is nowhere near vicious. Instead, he mostly harvests luminous, tangible dreams and blows them into the sleep of children he visits under cover of night. He later brings Sophie along and they go on an adventure to Dream Country featuring a tree that can rival that of Avatar. This relationship was fun to watch but the plot here was sometimes slow and also dragged on at times. This may have been due to the fact that it took a long time for Sophie to get over her fear of the giant and the film may also have been trying a little too hard to include wow-type moments. The world was beautiful but things could have moved a little quicker.
While she and the giant became friends, she started gaining the attention of some not so good giants, including Fleshlumpeater (Clement) and Bloodbottler (Hader). Sensing that things are becoming unsafe for Sophie, the BFG decides to return her to the orphanage. Sophie disagrees and insists that he should stand up to those bullies and has a plan to convince the Queen of England (Wilton) to help them get rid of these bad giants. Other than seeing them bully the BFG a few times, we never got a sense of how bad they were. Sure it was a little funny to have the Queen, her aide (Rebecca Hall), and her head of security (Rafe Spall) see the BFG and his size themselves and the culture clash but this whole sequence could have been shorter.
The greatest part of this film has to be the special effects and the atmosphere. The special effects are great here as Giant Country and the BFG’s cabin and also Dream Country are beautiful with their vibrant colors and the amount of detail present. The giants are even better. The effects involved in having Sophie and the other giants on screen looked great with the use of cinematography and CGI. It made us believe that they were really talking to each other. The way in which they modeled the BFG from Rylance’s facial features was amazing too which did enhance his performance as it was able to capture all of the nuance behind it. From his twinkling eyes to his many facial expressions, he was able to convey so much emotion while adding charm and made his character more inviting.
Rylance as the BFG was definitely the best part of the movie. His performance stole every scene he was in with his presence alone (no pun intended). He was a very warm and gentle character who was oozing in charm and very likeable. Barnhill was good here as well, keeping up with Rylance’s BFG the whole way. Her curious, idealistic, and optimistic character just fit well here and she was a great vehicle for all the amazement and the dazzlement. It was easy to feel things right with her. Their chemistry made them great to watch together.
There’s a lot of amazement here but it all wasn’t overly original and the root of the story wasn’t so original either. With a running time approaching 2 hours, the story does drag at times, creating a lot of boring moments. Since the main plot starts right away, we don’t get to spend too much time with Sophie which would have helped us to understand her more. The film surprisingly (for a Spielberg film) features a lot of humor which mostly didn’t work and felt forced. This is a children’s film so expect a lot of cliches too.
Overall, this is a good family film in which kids will enjoy which is elevated by Rylance’s nuanced digital performance but may leave some bored.