By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Spielberg's 'The BFG' meanders its way through Dahl's magical and macabre world of giants
In Disney's fantasy-adventure The BFG, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the best-selling book by Roald Dahl, the Big Friendly Giant (Oscar winner Mark Rylance) from Giant Country, visits London at night when the city is asleep. - photo by Josh Terry
THE BFG 3 stars Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Bill Hader; PG (action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor); in general release

The BFG is the latest effort to bring one of celebrated author Roald Dahls novels to the big screen. Films such as 2005s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and 2009s Fantastic Mr. Fox. matched Dahls style to the unique voices of directors such as Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, respectively (and Dahl himself wrote the screenplay for 1971s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). But with Steven Spielberg at the helm, The BFG may be the deceased authors highest-profile film yet.

We start things off with an orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). Cooped up in a dank orphanage deep in an English city, Sophie stays up long after the other children, wandering the halls and reading books. But her natural curiosity backfires when she spots a mysterious creature lurking in the shadows beyond the orphanage gates.

The creature (voiced by Mark Rylance) is a gangly, lanky giant, and when he realizes Sophie has spotted him, he snatches her from the orphanage and whisks her off to his cave far outside the city in the land of giants. Sophie expects him to gobble her up, but instead finds that her captor who she dubs BFG, for Big Friendly Giant is actually a sweet-tempered fellow. We also learn that the BFG is actually the runt of a much nastier breed of giants who will eat Sophie if they get the chance.

When he isnt surviving on a nasty, cucumber-like vegetable or slaughtering the English language with charming expressions like vegiterribles or strawbunkles and cream, the BFG is out capturing dreams and adding them to a vast collection in his cave.

His collection which features regulars such as showing up to school without any clothes on is painstakingly stored in a colorful stack of glass jars, and like the rest of the cave, is protected by a diverted waterfall (giants hate water).

Unfortunately, the other giants, led by an unsightly mug named Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement), get a whiff of Sophies presence, so the BFG has to take her back to the orphanage. But even there he suspects she isnt safe, and eventually the two unlikely friends hatch a plan to get the Queen to launch an offensive on the land of the giants.

Theres plenty of goofiness and evidence of Dahls quirky, macabre world-building, and audiences will love a running gag about a special drink called Frobscottle, which fizzes down instead of up (with dubious results).

The highlight of the film is the BFG himself, a CGI creation designed to closely echo the facial features of its voice talent. His introduction to the Queen is lots of fun, and Rylance is a perfect match for the character, lending it the same kind of wistful contemplation that won him last years Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Spielbergs spy feature Bridge of Spies.

Under Spielbergs hand, The BFG is heavy on charm and atmosphere, immersing the audience in a timeless world that blends the reality we know with a fantasy world we might imagine. The blend shows sincere attention to detail, and the films flow seems to match the sweeping arc of the title characters elongated limbs. But often, The BFG lingers a bit too long on itself at the sacrifice of pace and story. At 117 minutes long, the film will probably strain younger attention spans.

Sadly, it should also be mentioned that The BFG will be the final credit for screenwriter Melissa Mathison (who also penned E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial for Spielberg), who died in 2015.

The BFG is rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor; running time: 117 minutes.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters