I never read the children’s books about the Big Friendly Giant so I don’t really have any context. I just know that I love Steven Spielberg and I was curious what he could do here.
When our movie opens, a young orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) sees a giant wandering through the city. When the giant (Mark Rylance) notices her, he has no choice but to take her back to Giant Country, where she must now stay forever. As Sophie soon finds out, there are many giants, though our Big Friendly Giant is the runt of the litter. The others, including the leader voiced by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), all love to eat humans so it’s vital that Sophie stays hidden. On their wild adventures, Sophie and the BFG form an incredible bond in this cute children’s movie.
This film is entirely dependent on the ability to make the BFG feel realistic. Luckily, he does. Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar for his role in Spielberg’s last movie Bridge of Spies, manages to instill life in this entirely CGI creation and makes the BFG feel absolutely real, with some of the best performance capture I’ve ever seen. The effects don’t always look great, especially when interacting with human characters, but the facial emotions and voice work is incredible.
Our other lead is a young girl named Ruby Barnhill, who will definitely become a household name someday. She has charm and heart and it takes skill to convincingly act opposite of an entirely unreal character.
The movie also managed to do what it set out to do: Instill wonder. Spielberg has beautifully realized this land of giants, including a spectacular scene involving dream catching. It’s all visually very cool and interesting. I also want to applaud the lead villain, another giant voiced by Jemaine Clement. He’s been killing it with voiceover work, so this is another solid outing.
At this point I should address this movie’s target demographic. This is a movie for kids. If I weren’t reviewing movies, I wouldn’t recommend adults without kids heading to the theater to check this out (unless you have a childlike sense of wonder). There is a reocurring fart joke that kids will love and everyone else will likely find a little odd and alienating.
What doesn’t work?
If this is a movie aimed at children, it falters in the fact that it slows to an absolute crawl at a few different moments, which made every kid in my theater antsy. This movie is nearly 2 hours long, it could’ve been trimmed to 90 minutes and lost some of those slow moments.
Also like I said above, most of the effects are incredible, but there are moments when the giant picks Sophie for example, that there is a clear line between her and that giant. It’s not seamless and there are a few glaring moments that these effects faltered just a bit.
First off, this is a kids’ movie. If you go alone as an adult, you’ll likely be disinterested and turned off by a few moments. However, if you have kids or want a relatively safe and calm movie outing, The BFG is a good choice. It’s whimsical and fun, with some outstanding visual effects and performances across the board. It runs a little long for a movie of this type but you’ll likely find enough to enjoy here to warrant a trip to the movies.