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Review - 'The BFG'

Review - 'The BFG'

I'm going to be honest, I went into this film with an anticipation level of "zero". I know it's Stephen Spielberg and I should have been excited, but I just wasn't. I never read the children's novel nor did the story ever really entice me. Despite my reluctance, I actually had a very pleasant time watching this film. 

I'm probably going to use many different riffs on the word "pleasant" for this review because there's really no better way to describe a film like this. It's a cozy movie that is never insulting and is filled with child-like joy that doesn't quite captivate but is constantly funny and entertaining. 

Stephen Spielberg's 'The BFG' centers around a young girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who spends a (thankfully) short amount of time at an orphanage before she is whisked away to a fantastical giant world by the BFG (Mark Rylance). Though the BFG is a giant, it turns out he is the runt among many larger and much more mean-spirited giants. Sophie and the BFG form an unlikely partnership and decide to do something about the larger giants.

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First let me start by saying that this film would have fallen flat on it's face if not for the performances. Ruby Barnhill plays the precocious young Sophie perfectly. I can't tell you how many times I've been annoyed by this type of character in other films. This is Spielberg though, and his ability to direct children is nothing short of stunning. He just knows how to get great performances out of young actors. This is no discredit to Ruby Barnhill, I'm sure she's great on her own, I just don't know if any other director would have been able to pull out a similar performance. Mark Rylance does some amazing motion-capture work with the BFG, who comes out looking like a convincing caricature of the real actor. I found his often garbled attempts at speaking English quite amusing. He even manages to show some real emotion that might not get you teary but you WILL feel it.

The script is above average and the plot gets moving along within the first five minutes of the film. There's nothing I hate more than watching kids stuck at an orphanage for a long period of time. I've seen it before plenty of times and  I think Spielberg knew this. We spend a mercifully short time at this location which to me was a relief. With a movie like this you just want to get to the magic. 

Speaking of magic; the special effects in the film are quite obvious and that's fine because the movie isn't really going for realism. However, it all looks beautiful, and even though you can tell it's not real, the computerized creations work within the confines of the film. As I stated before, the motion-capture work is phenomenal. I was also impressed by the fantastical landscape that the giants roam. I will say that the larger giants are unfortunately less detailed and reminded me of the lackluster creations in 'Jack the Giant Slayer'. 

Despite being consistently entertaining, the film seemed to meander and doddle around especially in the latter-half. There were certain segments that I thought could have been sped up or cut here and there. The film is very relaxed in pace, it didn't particularly bother me, but it might get a little slow for some people. I also felt that the villainous giants were very 2-dimensional and didn't serve as very interesting adversaries. 

This isn't close to being one of Spielberg's best, but it definitely still has his stamp on it. Family movies like this really aren't made anymore, which is sad. The film is driven by the phenomenal performances of its two leads and their touching relationship. It's shot well and most of the effects are well-rendered. It's an unassuming movie that won't quite amaze, but will most certainly make you smile. 

Written by Rhys Paine on 7/12/16

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