Watched Steven Spielberg’s (Senior Spierlbergo) latest children’s fantasy The BFG, based on the novel by Roald Dahl (Charlies and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, etc.). The BFG is about a Big Friendly Giant (insert obligatory Doom reference here) who kidnaps a little girl who spots him on his 3am visit through London. I guess kidnapping isn’t very friendly but giants got to keep themselves secret from the human beans.
This is a charming children’s movie that adults will like most of the time, but probably not all the time. The movie is a getting-to-know-you story that spends an admirable amount of time letting the little girl and the giant become friends. Very little drama or standard Hollywood plot beats. I like that… but it got a little long and, in the middle act, I was kind of actively hoping it would end. I was thinking children might be getting something out of this, but I thought I’d seen enough.
But the flick takes a hard right hand turn in the third act and descends into some absurdist magical realism that I won’t spoil. Those who read the book will know the sudden change to the real world – this movie has all that. It isn’t in the trailer and I was surprised (I read the book a long time ago and had forgotten some of this). I’m pleased to say that even this doesn’t rewrite the story and insert a battle sequence that wouldn’t have fit the tone of of the movie.
It also has the creme-de-la-creme of fart jokes. I’m not big on fart jokes because they are the low-hanging fruit of comedy – it doesn’t take much actual effort to squeeze (ahem) out a few laughs with them so they just seem cheep and lazy. This is Spielberg though using his formidable talents to let loose (ahem) a frightfully funny fart joke that might put all the rest to bed. The theater I was in was packed with kids and the simple build-up to the pay-off we know is coming had everyone giggling in anticipation.
On a technical level, the movie looks amazing. The giants are so well motion captured and acted and their connective tissue to the real (non-CGI) little girl is pretty immaculate. They spent a lot of money on these FX and it pays off handsomely.
So, yes, this is a good movie. It’s got some pacing issues that children may not mind but left me antsy. But antsy in an appreciative way since the movie is just good-natured and charming and was spending that time not crashing cars or creating fill-the-running-time action or drama (or lazy fart jokes).The first act was fun and final act was very strong – enough to carry that middle. A good turn from Spielberg in a flick that kind of feels like him trying to reach back to the 80s to do a classic adventure (the Amblin logo the opens the movie hints to that).