“The BFG” is a hybrid animation/motion-capture/live-action film from Steven Spielberg based on the 1982 children’s book by Roald Dahl. Even if you don’t know the book (as I did not), you may find the film delightful and entertaining, as did I.
BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant, the main character acted and voiced by Mark Rylance. I admit to becoming a Mark Rylance fan last year when the BBC mini-series Wolf Hall played on PBS (a great book series, as well!) Then he was in the Academy Award nominated film Bridge of Spies, also last year, for which he won Best Supporting Actor. Rylance’s face and voice make The BFG work; motion-capture technology is used to give the BFG Rylance’s face, especially his kind eyes and expressions, while exaggerating the nose and the ears!
The story starts with a young girl in an orphanage in London. It is, as she calls it, “the witching hour”—3:00am—and she is not asleep. Looking out the dormitory window she sees the giant. Because he has been seen by her, he takes her with him so she won’t tell the world about giants. She is scared but intrigued, glad for an adventure, while not feeling very safe. Once in Giant Country, she gives her name as Sophie. Her captor is called “Runt” by Fleshlumpeater and the other giants who are about four times bigger than he is; but he tells Sophie he was once called Big Friendly Giant. So she calls him BFG. (The interiors of his home and laboratory are full of cool details!)
BFG works at concocting and delivering dreams to people. He eats only snozzcumbers, which Sophie says taste like frog skins and rotten fish. His fellow giants like to eat “beans”, as in human beans. These giants, Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, Maidmasher, Manhugger, Butcher Boy, Bonecruncher, Childchewer, Gizzardgulper and Meatdripper are cannibals. They look down on BFG because he refuses to eat children. Their hunger poses a threat to Sophie’s friendship, indeed her very life with the BFG. They have to come up with a plan to save children from these giants. Sophie’s idea involves the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton)!
There is a tiny bit of crude humor, which I thought would be a bigger part of the story, but is not—BFG bottles frobscottle, a fizzy green drink in which the bubbles sink rather than rise, causing, not burbs, but… you got it. It is a side joke, so by the time the queen imbibes, we are ready for the results. Kids will giggle at this.
The most beautifully animated scene in the film is Sophie’s experience of the dream tree and BFG’s explanation of how dreams work. The animation is awe-inspiring! And, yes, the 3D is worth it, if you don’t mind paying for it.
The BFG is rated “PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor.” It is definitely a movie for children, especially for those who read books. But adults interested in new advances in animation, and who can enjoy the simple pleasures of a kid’s story, will be enthralled with this film, as well.