Review: The BFG, B-
Rated PG, 117 minutes
The heartwarming family film "The BFG" from Steven Spielberg and based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same, channels Spielberg's own blockbuster, "E.T.-The Extra Terrestrial" with some familiar themes, and while the slower-paced "BFG" lacks the magic of that aforementioned classic, it still stands tall on its own merits just fine. Ten-year-old Sophie (charming British newcomer Ruby Barnhill) is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets the Big Friendly Giant (recent Oscar-winner Mark Rylance from Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies"). Naturally scared at first, the young girl soon realizes that the 24-foot behemoth is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie's presence attracts the unwanted attention of Bloodbottler (Bill Hader), Fleshlumpeater (Jermaine Clements) and other, evil man-eating giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must The Queen (Penelope Wilton) to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all. The well-cast, warm "The BFG" is a solid, hearttugging entry in the children's fantasy genre, and while it's not perfect, there's still plenty to like. Spielberg has assembled his usual top-notch crew to help deliver another winner, including the screenplay by "E.T.'s" Melissa Mathison (her final script before her death last year), the music by John Williams and the lovely cinematography from "Saving Private Ryan's" Janusz Kamiński. It doesn't hurt that Barnhill and Rylance, who perfectly embodies the gentle giant who talks "squiggly" (he has some funny words for things that Sophie constantly corrects him on) and has big ears, have solid chemistry. As the bad giants, Hader and Clements are also inspired, fun choices, even if they tend to chew on the scenery a bit. A couple of drawbacks: "The BFG" tends to lumber a bit for a family film, especially in the first act, spending a little too much time establishing the Giant-Sophie relationship that some young ones may get a little too distracted (at least they did in the screening I saw). Also, aside from the giant, some of the special effects aren't as seamless as we might expect from Spielberg - green screens and other camera tricks seem a little evident here - though that doesn't entirely dampen the spirit of the film, which is focused on an unconventional friendship and loyalty. The friendly and inviting "The BFG" is uplifting, fun and suitable for the entire family, but small children, especially toddlers, may become a little bored with it.