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Movie Review: Disney’s THE BFG

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#TheBFGEvent coverage comes to a close with some formal thoughts on Disney’s The BFG

With a creative team that brings back together the combined talents of Director/Producer Steven Spielberg, Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Composer John Williams and the late Melissa Mathison as Screenwriter, it’s hard not to draw immediate comparisons to the first film to feature that magical creative mix – 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It was in that same year that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl saw the release of his book, The BFG – a tale of a young girl and her 24′ friend, “The Big Friendly Giant.” 34 years later, The BFG has come to life on the big screen as a spectacular adventure for the entire family, one that many are looking toward as an “E.T. for a new generation” – a designation that is inaccurate, this coming from a writer who loves E.T. enough to have a statue of the alien in his office, and has also come to love the wonders of Dream Country.

With Dahl’s book having escaped me (I received a copy a few months back but held off on reading it), I was able to approach the film “pure” – devoid of the expectations that one typically has when being attached to the source material. Spielberg, along with producer Kennedy have noted that one of the delays in bringing this tale to the big screen has been a wait for “technology to catch up with the story,” and seeing the film (in 3D), it is astounding – yet somewhat on a level of hyper-reality – just how well the physical world meshes with Giant Country and the Dream Country beyond.

When The BFG (played via motion capture by Mark Rylance) is spotted by the mischievous, up-too-late Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) from the balcony of her orphanage home, he swipes her not out of malicious intent, but for his own self-preservation – afraid that if his presence were to become known, he’d be locked-up in a cage and examined for the sake of science. Remorseful at taking the child (which we later discover is the second time he’s done such a thing), he feels for her parents before soon discovering that she has none. While The Big Friendly Giant seems enormous with his lanky, 24′ frame towering above his new “human bean” friend, we learn that he’s “a runt” in Giant Country, an anomaly in his world – one inhabited by 50′ man-eating warriors that act like overgrown toddlers, smashing and grabbing whatever their hearts desire, each harboring an insatiable taste for human snacks, and an enormous dislike for water. 

Learning that The BFG is a collector, and deliverer of dreams, young Sophie bonds with her new friend on a great adventure to the world of Dream County that lies high above, and beyond that of Giant Country. Filled with magic and surreal beauty, Sophie sees the good dreams and the nightmares, helping The BFG capture them and harness their power, then seeing how he’s able to craft specific dreams like a scientist in his hidden laboratory – a wondrous place that reminds me of the Batcave, hidden behind a waterfall. 

As our heroes’ friendship grows, it becomes apparent that each needs the other to reach the next stage in their lives, and The BFG needs Sophie (and perhaps a bit of assistance from The Queen of England!) to finally overcome the torment of The Fleshlumpeater, The Bloodbottler, The Butcher Boy, The Bonecruncher, The Gizzardgulper, The Maidmasher, The Childchewer, The Manhugger and The Meatdripper.

Filled with comedy and compassion, The BFG stands on its own as film that indeed captures a feeling of those films from my own youth in the 1980s – a vibe that I find missing in today’s family films, but I’m not a child anymore (well, I’m a big kid), so it’s hard to see it through those eyes. It doesn’t feel like E.T. to me at all – and I don’t think it should. The BFG is its own thing, and only time will tell how the children of 2016 view it over three decades beyond… but for now I can safely deem it to be one of 2016’s best – a big, beautiful adventure, that while a bit long-in-the-tooth at times, feels like a book come to life.

Having seen the film twice already (once with Spielberg in the room at its U.S. Premiere), I believe it’s the type of film that gets even better with repeat viewings, and I’m looking forward to sharing the adventure with The Rock Daughters™ in the theater this weekend.

Disney’s The BFG is now playing.  Get tickets now via Fandango.

Want more from Disney’s The BFG? Check out this coverage on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine:

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