Review: Disney's ‘The BFG’ — What parents should know
Three beloved forces — director Steven Spielberg, author Roald Dahl and the Walt Disney Company — have come together for the release of this weekend’s biggest family film, “The BFG.”
With so much creative talent behind the scenes, one would expect “The BFG” to be magical, whimsical and fun. While it certainly is at times, it’s also ridiculous, a little bit boring and gross, too.
“The BFG” is based on the children’s book by Dahl of the same title and is the story of an orphan girl named Sophie (played by Ruby Barnhill). An oddball, Sophie can’t sleep and doesn’t dream, so she roams her London orphanage at night, picking up after her caretaker, bossing away loiterers in the alley outside and taking peeks outside. One night, Sophie spots a giant, cloaked figure using a trumpet to blow something into a bedroom window. The giant (voiced by Oscar-winner Mark Rylance) snatches Sophie and takes her back to Giant Country. Sophie and the giant become quick friends, but the threat of nine other, bigger giants eating her prompts “the big, friendly giant,” or BFG, to return her to the orphanage. Sophie, however, is determined to help BFG, who is a runt and bullied by the other giants. To do so, she sets a fantastical plan in motion.
It’s a fun fact that the screenplay for “The BFG” was written by the late Melissa Mathison, who also wrote “E.T., and while there are some similarities between “E.T.” and “The BFG,” this new movie blends CGI and live action and somehow didn’t capture for me the same sweet feeling I always felt watching “E.T.” nor did it have that same sense of wonder I always felt watching "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
If you’re thinking of taking the kids to see “The BFG” in theaters, here are some things you should probably know, especially if you aren’t familiar with the dark-toned book on which it is based.
The tone of the movie is mostly dark, brightened only by the friendship between Sophie and BFG. The other giants are frightening and nasty and love to eat children. Sophie has a nightmare in which the biggest and nastiest giant eats her, and that scene might scare young and sensitive children. The nine giants also bully BFG, tossing him around like a ragdoll and making fun of him.
There is also some gross potty humor, especially when the BFG drinks frobscottle, which causes noisy flatulence. The giants also have disturbing names, such as Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottle and Childchewer.
There is lots of nonsensical dialogue — this movie is full of talking, which might bore kids with low attention spans — but no profanity. There is also no sexual innuendo that I recall.
Truthfully, I’m no fan of 3D movies, so I saw this one in a standard theater. I thought the special effects were terrible, which likely affected my opinion. I suspect the effects might have been magical in 3D, so this is one time I'd encourage you to choose 3D over standard viewing.
While I personally didn’t find “The BFG” all that magical, some children I saw it with really enjoyed it. One even professed he liked it much more than “Finding Dory.” It did have good messages about friendship, standing up to bullies and believing in yourself that will probably resonate with most children. Overall, I’ve seen worse films than “The BFG,” but I’ve also seen much better.
“The BFG” is now playing in theaters. It is rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor.