A day after checking out the Pete’s Dragon remake and being less than enthused about the result, I curled up with this incredibly delightful and surprising film. To be fair, this movie reunited the creative crew that brought us E.T., so its bona fides are more than a step above, but the same challenges remained: creating a tale and tone that would engage both children and adults. In other words, a family movie versus just a flick for kids.
I am disappointed I didn’t see BFG on the big screen. Like many, I missed it in the theater because, well, I just didn’t know it and wasn’t sure what to expect. However Melissa Mathison’s (E.T., Black Stallion) script, adapted from the Roald Dahl book, is a magnificent piece of language, adventure, fun, and danger without ever being too terrifying. Having Steven Spielberg direct it didn’t hurt either. The result is probably the most unique and best piece of family-oriented magic, after Kubo and the Two Strings, for me this past year. Yes, there were many other children’s films, but they all lacked originality and surprise for me as an adult, and probably for a lot of the younger audience as well.
Newcomer Ruby Barnhill, as Sofie delivers a brilliantly enthusiastic and strong performance alongside Mark Rylance’s (Bridge of Spies) decidedly sweet, if sometimes misguided giant. Their interaction is effortless. Even the animation is decidedly fudged to make movements look weightless and magical like the original drawings in Dahl’s books.
Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) was her typical and unmistakable riot (particularly if you watch Doctor Who or Downton Abbey). And Jermaine Clement (Moana) added just the right amount of menace and humor.
Definitely seek this one out, regardless of your age. Dahl is brilliant at bringing out the kid in everyone. His twisted sense of fantasy, be it chocolate factories, giant peaches, or man-eating giants is always wonderfully surprising and entertaining while remaining uplifting and full of great life lessons.