Thanks to the amazing people at Walden Pond Press, a few days ago, my sister and I headed off to an advanced screening of The BFG, a new Disney/Walden Media adaptation of the very much beloved Roald Dahl book. (Yes, I am a little biased in this, being not only a huge Roald Dahl fan as a child, but especially of The BFG and The Witches -- which, yes, is one of my favorite movies from my childhood, even if it did scare the bejesus out of me. . . ) And though I originally wanted to record the experience for you, ala the silliness of the last time we went to a screening, that didn't happen -- but I still wanted to share my thoughts!
So. Let's get into it, shall we?
A little girl with insomnia spots a giant roving through her town, and when he spots her, he snatches her up and spirits her away to Giant Land so she can't tell anyone what she saw. She learns he's a Big Friendly Giant, and that the other giants in Giant Land are much bigger and much less friendly. Heartfelt antics ensue.
I loved the look of it. Loved. A friend who saw it wasn't a fan of the CGI and wished that Mark Rylance wasn't so CGI-ed out, but personally, I loved the way they used Rylance. The manipulation of his features and proportions made him seem very kind and affable, and generally not threatening, which suits the BFG, and it also just made him/the movie seem more charming. And there was just something about his eyes. . . I'm not saying Mark Rylance doesn't naturally have kind eyes, but the manipulation of his features made his eyes just seem so kind, so warm and trustworthy. I know it seems silly, but it really added something to the character and the film, for me.
I remain endlessly impressed Ruby Barnhill, aka Sophie, the 12 year old actress (11 at the time!) who somehow managed to carry a massive, CGI-laden movie where the only characters in the bulk of the scenes were herself and Rylance. It's a HUGE role to begin with -- for anyone, let alone at such a young age -- but when you add in the fact that so much was green screen, and that she was kind of having to act and react in a void, her performance is unbelievable.
(It's also available in regular ol' 2D, if that's your preference.)
Spielberg adapted and captured The BFG really well -- maybe a little too well, which I'll get into a bit more below.
It had heart and laughs. This may be the one and only time I've laughed at a fart gag in my life, and at some points (mostly later in the movie, because there weren't many laughs in the beginning), the audience (kids especially) were in stitches.
It felt epic.
It felt epic. . .
It felt a bit long, which is something confirmed by both my sister and the friend I mentioned earlier. But the kids in the theater didn't seem to have any problem with the length; there was no fidgeting or yelling, or anything like that. Kids seemed engaged and having a good time, and the somewhat snotty couple seated next to me settled right down and seemed to be enjoying themselves, so it's not like it dragged to the point of being boring. But for a kids film, it is long -- a 2 hour run time even in the most action-packed of films can lag or feel a bit much at times, and this did have its slow moments.
It's a very accurate adaptation, sometimes to its detriment. It captures the whimsical language and style of the book, but sometimes it was a little too on the nose -- some things work better in text than spoken aloud, and sometimes it just rang false. (This isn't necessarily a negative for kids, though, who will likely love the quirky language.)
For all her general amazingness, "Sophie" occasionally seemed coached, especially in her movements. But seriously, for such a massive role, she was spot on more often than she wasn't, and I really can't fault an 11 year old lead for not being perfect throughout an entire 2 hour movie that she had to carry (essentially) alone.
My negatives don't even come close to outweighing my positives, and though I liked it very much as an adult, I can say without a hint of doubt that I would have adored this movie as a kid.
All in all, would recommend!
The BFG hits theaters across the US tomorrow (and later in the month elsewhere, I believe). Check out the trailer below, and if you've seen it / do see it / are intending to / love the book, share your thoughts in the comments!