The Hippo


May 27, 2020









The BFG (PG)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

A little girl befriends a Big Friendly Giant but must avoid the even bigger, not-so-friendly giants looking to eat her and other children in The BFG, a live action/CGI tale based on a Roald Dahl book.

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan who spends many a sleepless night prowling around the orphanage where she lives. But one night, at what she says is the witching hour of 3 a.m., she catches a giant in the middle of his nightly rounds of spreading dreams. He scoops her up from her bed, along with her glasses and her quilt and her copy of Nicholas Nickleby, and whisks her off to Giant Country.
The Big Friendly Giant, BFG for short (Mark Rylance, in CGI stretch-o-vision like all the actors playing the giants), tells Sophie that he can’t take her back to human London because she’ll spill the secret of giants being real and then humans will come hunting them. But she must also be careful while in Giant Country. BFG is something of a vegetarian; he eats a sort of rotten-looking cucumber and drinks a fizzy green drink for his meals. (The drink is particularly strange in that its bubbles go down instead of up, as with your standard sodas. Likewise, its air bubbles once imbibed also go, a-hem, down, not coming out as burps but in the other direction. If your kids like a fart joke, this is their movie.) BFG’s diet sets him apart among giants — most of them eat children, or “beans” (at least, I think that’s what they’re saying, and I think it’s a shortened version of “human beings”). 
Other giants are also much larger and meaner than BFG, who though huge to humans is something of a jockey among WWE wrestlers around the giants. Though BFG,with his charmingly bungled pronunciations and his grandfatherly nature, tries to get along with the giants, they don’t respect him or his work — which is gathering dreams and then sending them out to the minds of sleeping children. He also isn’t particularly good at standing up for himself. The BFG is kind-hearted and wants to save even the giants (played by basically unrecognizable Jermaine Clement, Bill Hader, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Jonathan Holmes, Chris Gibbs and Paul Moniz de Sa) who bully him. But when Sophie is in danger, BFG starts to find the backbone to help her.  
It took me a while to wade in to this movie. Something — about Sophie? the CGI? — something made this movie initially tonally slightly off. I appreciated the matter-of-fact darkness, the silliness and the sweetness but they didn’t seem to fit together. I didn’t feel joy or wonder or charmed, I just felt like the movie was lacking some small but vital quality that would bring all of its elements together and make me get emotionally invested in the story. Were this a plate of food, I’d be reaching for the salt.
For me, the movie starts to click somewhere deep in its second half, when the Queen (Penelope Wilton, Isobel Crawley looking very Queen Elizabeth II), becomes part of the story. Somehow here, all the whimsy and cuteness and wacky malapropisms and adventure and farting pulls together and becomes something, if not quite magical, then enjoyable and fun. 
A movie that wakes up in its last third (or so) is perhaps not something that you’d normally count as a success. But I think this movie does win more than lose and I think the credit goes entirely to Mark Rylance. Now, admittedly, I went in to this movie thinking Rylance was pretty fantastic. He elevated Steven Spielberg’s last movie, Bridge of Spies, and took it from being a straightforward, not-bad affair to being one of the better movies of 2015. Here, for me at least, Rylance is the movie. His face and the emotions he’s able to express with it tell the story as well as the dialogue is able to. And his delivery of the turvy-topsy dialogue is able to make something that could feel very gimmicky seem a natural and even delightful part of his character. B-
Rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor. Directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Melissa Mathison from a novel by Roald Dahl, The BFG is an hour and 57 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios. 


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