Technically well-directed, but it is easy to befuddle as to why Steven Spielberg thought this would be interesting or fun – for any age group. Source material for The BFG is the 1982 novel by Raold Dahl, whose “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Witches” made for terrific film adaptations. Spielberg’s interpretation of this little girl befriends a giant fantasy is both dark but magical, conducted with his trademark elaborate set pieces, busy actor movements and too clever by half camera placements. Its grandiosity is so out of whack it’s hard to follow.
It is hard to praise or dismiss the 10-year old actress Ruby Barnhill as the girl who is trying not to get eaten in the land of giants. She is a precocious little spitfire, but somehow, there isn’t much wonder or spontaneity in that face outside a moment or two where we see real charm in that smile. Spielberg never allows us to get too close to her. The Giant is a CGI creature, neither an excellent or terrible progeny of CGI, and he’s voiced and brought to likeness via Motion Capture process by an often jabbering Mark Rylance (who scored an Oscar for Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies”). Behold the film’s plot: This Big Friendly Giant turns out to be a protector to little girl Sophie who needs saving from, you guessed it, being eaten by other Giants!
The nasty carnivore giants are as awful an example of CGI as the giants in “Jack the Giant Slayer” (2013) were. Hopefully most of you didn’t waste your time on that one. With “The BFG,” it is, you now, Spielberg. There are a few wonderful moments. Visual splendor is realized through the nice concept that the Giant can distill dreams and dispense them to the people. Because of such moments, Spielberg die-hards might find “The BFG” borderline watchable. You still have to wade through a lot of gibberish.
117 Minutes. Rated PG.
FAMILY MOVIE / AGES 6 AND UP / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971); “The Witches” (1990); “James and the Giant Peach” (1996); “The Borrowers” (1997).