Starring Mark Rylance. Rated PG.
In The BFG, director Steven Spielberg and late screenwriter Melissa Mathison attempt to re-create the multigenerational magic they achieved together in E.T. The results, while pleasant enough for wee ones, fall short of that goal.
The source material, of course, is Roald Dahl’s beloved 1982 children’s book. It remains the tale of a young orphan named Sophie (here played by newcomer Ruby Barnhill) whisked out of isolation when she happens to spot an extremely tall creature traipsing around London.
It must be the 1980s, because there’s little hint of the Orwellian surveillance now everywhere in the U.K. The tall guy, played by Bridge of Spies’ Mark Rylance with giant ears and a lot of computer enhancement, couldn’t survive unseen today. But back then it might have seemed prudent to kidnap Sophie and Brexit her to his faraway lair. The movie certainly underplays the creepier aspects of this scenario, making it clear that the mismatched two are extremely lonely. And it turns out that the kidnapper, who rather redundantly dubs himself the Big Friendly Giant, is not all that big compared to the other, child-chewing dwellers in Giant Land, led by Fleshlumpeater (cast standout Jemaine Clement).
The giants are all male, so it’s unknown how they propagate, much less how they propose to make a meal out of tiny Sophie. Still, it makes for a good rescue fantasy, with the bookworm kid sheltered by a malaprop-prone, plus-sized peasant. (We have Dahl to thank for the adjective scrumdiddlyumptious.) The slow-moving tale also presents a winkingly benign view of royalty, with Penelope Wilton as the Queen, and Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall as her simpatico servants. Barnhill is a solid-enough Sophie, but she’s no Drew Barrymore. And, sadly, The BFG is no BFD.