Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/Canada/USA, 2016. Walt Disney Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Reliance Entertainment, Walden Media, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, DreamWorks, River Road Entertainment. Screenplay by Melissa Mathison, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Produced by Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, Steven Spielberg. Music by John Williams. Production Design by Rick Carter. Costume Design by Joanna Johnston. Film Editing by Michael Kahn. Washington Film Critics Awards 2016.
Sophie is lonely in her London orphanage, beset by the misery within its walls and what she senses are possible monsters outside her window. She dares to look beyond the curtain and sees a big-eared, crooked-smiled giant making his nightly rounds, delivering dreams to the city’s children, and he snatches her up and takes her to his country where he tells her that she must stay forever. She has seen him, which means she can never go home and tell people what she has witnessed, but living among the giants is also a problem since, as it turns out, he’s actually the runty miniature member of a society of nine much larger, and far more vicious men who love eating children. Sophie is determined to eventually rejoin the race of humans but not before developing a rapport with the newly named “Big Friendly Giant” (Or BFG) that has her try and help him face his foes and assert his place in the world. This takes us to a very delightful third act that puts our heroes in the way of the Queen (played with perfect, brittle elegance by Penelope Wilton) and progresses to a very moving conclusion. Steven Spielberg’s reunion with the late Melissa Mathison, who wrote the screenplay for E.T., results in a sweet and endearing film that is the perfect antidote for loud summer blockbusters. Despite all the muscle put into visual effects (including turning Mark Rylance into an odd-faced giant), this one does not devolve into a messy battle sequence or an overly complicated chase; its pulse is the wry humour of the book’s author Roald Dahl, and because it never loses sight of his gentle rhythms, the themes of friendship and confidence are never lost in a computer graphically enhanced muddle. Ruby Barnhill is a treat in the lead, charming and poised throughout, and the sequence where the BFG is welcomed to tea at Buckingham Palace is unforgettably sweet.