Steven Spielberg directs talky, likable 'BFG'

  • Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) shares adventures with her Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) in Steven Spielberg's "The BFG."

    Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) shares adventures with her Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) in Steven Spielberg's "The BFG."

Posted6/28/2016 2:00 PM

It begins as the most scrumdiddlyumptious story, then slowly turns into one heck of a whizzpopper.

Steven Spielberg's "The BFG," based on Roald Dahl's classic kiddles' book, regales us with a tale of a quick and lanky giant who late one night snatches a girl from a dismal British orphanage and whisks her off to Giant Country.


Newcomer Ruby Barnhill plays 10-year-old Sophie, a courageous girl afflicted with restrained cuteness. She knows she's not supposed to peer behind the curtains late at night. But she does.

She spots a giant using a huge horn to blow dreams into the heads of sleeping children. The giant sees her. He reaches his long, limber arm into her room and grabs her. (See this in 3-D if possible.)

Once in Giant Country, Sophie becomes charmed by the giant, so much so that she affectionately calls him the BFG for Big Friendly Giant.

Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar for playing a spy in Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies," plays the BFG as a rural do-gooder with elephant-like ears that flap about.

Rylance's world-weary, sad sack countenance shows up vividly in the features of his avuncular, computer-animated BFG. He looks much smaller than his human-bean-eating fellow giants with names like Fleshlumpeater, Butcher Boy, Meatdripper and Bloodbottler. They can smell human beans anywhere.

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"The BFG" supplies moderate levels of kid-friendly charm. Yet, it fails to pack the kind of intense, emotional punch we've come to expect from Spielberg productions such as "E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Sophie and her fellow human beans seldom appear to be awed or even scared by the fantastic creatures and characters they encounter. They fail to reflect and reinforce our amazement.

Spielberg moves dutifully from one whoopsy-splunkers scene to the next, but without building much anticipation for what waits around the corner. Not even a climatic helicopter rescue sequence inspires a sense of triumph.

"The BFG" will satisfy most kiddles for sure, but the movie proves to be a slight disappointment given the credentials of the filmmakers.

The late Melissa Mathison (writer of Spielberg's "E.T.") adapted the screenplay utilizing Dahl's whoopsy wiffling verbal creations. She died in November.


Composer John Williams, who has scored all but two of Spielberg's movies, supplies a serviceable score, unusual in that it lacks his trademark memorable main theme.

Frequent Spielberg collaborator and Chicago Columbia College grad Janusz Kaminski shot the film in lush, rich compositions (along with superbly rendered visual effects).

Rylance, a celebrated stage actor with a giant amount of charisma, commands this movie, even though his BFG remains remarkably low-key.

The BFG doesn't believe that a person should gobblefunk around with words, but he does in some of the most inventive language to spice up a movie since the droogies textually assaulted the English language in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange."

Kids should really like "BFG" when a meeting between the Queen of England (a game Penelope Wilton) and the BFG breaks into a noisy display of public flatulence that surpasses the classic campfire scene in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles."

Note to kids: Never drink fizzy fluids in which the bubbles go down, not up. That way, you'll never get a bad case of the whizzpoppers.

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