I have never read the Roald Dahl book on which The BFG is based, so I went into this film without any preconceived notions of story or characters. The film made me want to read the book.
The orphan protagonist, Sophie, breaks the rules by staying up late reading under her covers. One night, she sees a giant sneaking through the streets, and the giant notices her and takes her back to Giant Country. The journey is quite exciting.
At first, she thinks the giant plans to eat her. The gentle giant proves he has other plans, and they slowly become friends. The meaner giants eventually discover her and demand the BFG (big friendly giant) hand her over so they can eat her.
The story of The BFG jumped right into the thick of things, with Sophie arriving in Giant Country within just a few minutes of the opening of the film. The initial antagonism between Sophie and the BFG slowly morphed into a solid friendship. The film’s resolution worked well and will be especially enjoyed by the younger crowd.
Ruby Barnhill did an excellent job portraying Sophie. She was inquisitive, earnest, and believable. She reminded me a lot of Georgie Henley in the first Narnia film. I know kids just like her. For someone so young, she did a great job acting in almost exclusively green screen sets (outside of some of the set pieces). Some actors never get the hang of interacting with CGI characters, but Barnhill did a wonderful job.
The title character in The BFG was masterfully played by Mark Rylance. Using motion capture technology, the animators were able to use Rylance’s facial movements and expressions to create an incredibly beautifully-designed character which Rylance then fully inhabited. The animation tools have gotten to the point where the animators can really explore and make full use of the tools. I hope Rylance has a long career in future films. I hadn’t seen him in anything up to this point.
Penelope Wilton—who was very enjoyable as Harriet Jones (MP) in several episodes of Doctor Who—did a simply smashing job as Queen Elizabeth II. She made the Queen accessible and human.
There were a few scary moments in the film which might frighten really young kids, so be aware of that. Some of the secondary giants—outside of the BFG and Fleshlumpeater (portrayed well by Jemaine Clement, who was also excellent in Despicable Me, Men in Black 3, and most recently in Moana)—were not as detailed and felt more cartoony. This wasn’t a huge distraction, however, and it didn’t really detract from the overall feel of The BFG.
I found this film very enjoyable, and I strongly recommend it. I can’t speak for how well it adapts the book, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The BFG is great for children of all ages, and a great family film. And now I plan to read the book!
Release Date: July 1, 2016 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief scene with drunks)
Violence: 2 (some intense violence, attempted eatings, implied death)