Get Ready For a Mountain of Sticky-Sweetness (7/2/2016)
by Andrew Saladino
'The BFG': But- I mean, it's Spielberg. So, it works. We all know it does.
Like every other post-'Avatar' blockbuster, Steven Spielberg's 'The BFG' is CGI'd to hell, but it does feature a grab bag of classic Spielbergian magic tricks, many of which we haven't seen for near a decade- that five-year old wide-eyed awe especially- and all are more than welcome when they arrive. If you're looking to compare it to one of his previous works, skip over obvious contender 'E.T.' and look closer to 'Hook' with its colorful, overblown theme-park attraction sights and sounds, many of which are echoed here, as well are, unfortunately, many of the problems that 'Hook' was derided for- strange, as Spielberg has gone on record multiple times about his disdain for that flick. But more of that in a moment.
Little miss Ruby Barnhill is orphan Sophie, whisked away by Mark Rylance's titular street-roaming, dream-stealing giant, and both are just plain delightful. Barnhill is wonderfully bright-eyed, and Rylance- whose BFG could've so easily turned into Jar Jar Binks what with all the jumbled, mangled words and weightless, bouncy walk- is charming throughout (why did Spielberg only now start working with him?) It's a great credit to the three-handed affair of Spielberg, Rylance, and Barnhill- or four-handed I should say, as recently passed writer Melissa Mathison is just as responsible for the film's magic- that every single moment between Sophie and her giant works and works well, despite or very possibly because of that sticky-sweet, syrupy tonality one would expect from The Great Sentimentalist maestro.
It is everything around them that tends to flounder, and this is where we return to 'Hook', of which 'The BFG' also shares the former's goofy sensibilities- an extended third act sequence with Penelope Wilton's royal majesty, a vastly underused Rebecca Hall, and a reference to Nancy and Ronnie Reagan, just simply ventures into territory one would expect from 'Scooby-Doo' or 'The Smurfs' or anything else that Raja Gosnell has gotten his hands on (oof, I shudder at the thought of what his 'BFG' would've looked like). That aside, there's magic to spare in this one- it's an adventure well worth taking.
*** (three stars out of four)
'The BFG'. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Michael David Adamthwaite, Olafur Olafsson. 117 min. Rated PG (bloodbottlers and whizpopping)