Who's excited about today's Fourth of July weekend release of the latest Steven Spielberg movie, The BFG, based on the classic kids book by Roald Dahl? I know after seeing the trailer, I couldn't wait to see this and was fortunate to be invited to a very early screening of this picture more than a month ago at the intimate Director's Guild of America theater in Hollywood. So, I've had quite a bit of time to mull over this summer feature film in my movie critic mind.
As a Spielberg admirer since his early days, I think audiences first and foremost will appreciate the tremendous job the director does with technical qualities, special effects and CGI to tell the story. In fact, this may be the finest example yet showing Spielberg as a true cinematographic visionary.
The cast, representing generations of actors from beginners to seasoned thespians delivers impressive performances, too. And John Williams' musical score, his 24th for a Spielberg-directed film, was truly astounding, enjoyable and right on pitch. On the flip side as a parent I also experienced a different perspective. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, I'll tell you more about that later.
Many years in the making, this is the iconic film director's first project ever for Walt Disney. Spielberg explains he postponed completing this project because he was waiting for the proper technology to be available with which he could properly execute his vision.
Worth noting is that Spielberg again partnered with Amblin Entertainment and Melissa Mathison, who wrote his breakout picture E.T. The Extra- Terrestrial back in 1982 -- coincidentally the same year Dahl first published The BFG book.
Sadly, neither Mathison (who passed away of cancer after writing the screenplay) nor Dahl (who died in 1990) lived to see how Spielberg brought the story to the big screen. Yet, this film is a fitting tribute to both of their memories. Another fascinating side note: 2016 would have been the great author's 100th birthday.
In a nut shell, The BFG is a fantasy adventure action tale about a 10 year-old orphan girl and the 3-story building tall Big Friendly Giant who snatches her from bed in an orphanage. In the middle of the night he whisks her away, running through the streets, flying through the air, jumping giant step style island to island, before finally landing on a deserted isle and introducing little Sophie to both the scary and the good of living in Giant Country far, far away from civilization.
|Newcomer Ruby Barnhill shines as Sophie in BFG|
Stars of the movie include Oscar winner Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant, first-time British actress Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, the orphan. Also in the talented cast: Penelope Wilton as a very convincing Queen of England; Jemaine Clement as scary giant and BFG archrival Fleshlumpeater; Rebecca Hall as Mary, the Queen's handmaid; Rafe Spall as Mr. Tibbs, the Queen's butler; and Bill Hader as Bloodbottler, one of the other fearful oversized Giant Country characters.
Spielberg says he read The BFG book to his own kids when they were younger. “It’s a story about friendship, " he reflects on his most recent masterpiece. "it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.”
Overall, this is a fantastic and exciting movie with appeal across the generations. There are many reasons to praise the actors' performances (especially young newbie Barnhill) as well as Spielberg's golden touch in translating the complexities of Dahl's The BFG book and transforming the challenging material into a world-class production.
However, remember the film is officially Rated PG "for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor." Action and peril, such as an orphan playing a central character is of course a Disney hallmark dating back as far as the Wizard of Oz. And the rude humor we're talking about here isn't particularly disconcerting or disrespectful, it's mostly jokes about things like farting and other bodily functions which kids tend to find hilarious. Still, having viewed the movie from a film critic as well as mother's perspective, I do have several caveats you might want to think about.
First, even if you are watching with your child, you may want to consider whether or not this film is appropriate if your son or daughter is younger than 4-6 years old (or is prone to nightmares) because they could find the first 15-20 minutes or so after the orphan is kidnapped a little too scary.
Second, even though this is a Disney film with an engaging story and the BFG turns out to be a lovable oaf in the end, younger viewers may get a little restless as the movie's runtime clocks in at 3 minutes under two hours long. I do think older kids, especially those old enough to read Dahl classics like The BFG, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory will likely find the non-stop action, well-developed characters and simple story line -- and of course amazing special effects of this film -- entertaining and thought-provoking on many levels.
There is a positive twist to those concerns, though. In a day and age where child abductions unfortunately happen IRL, all too frequently, this is also a great launching point for an age-appropriate discussion on stranger danger with our children whether or not they are mature enough to enjoy this movie. It is also a teaching moment for moms, dads and caregivers which circles back to Spielberg's intentions of making this picture: ultimately this is a story about problem solving, friendship, loyalty and protecting our friends.
FTC Disclosure: Disney provided all images in this post as well as invited MommyBlogExpert to a special advance screening of this movie to facilitate this review. No payment or other compensation was received in connection with this post and opinions here are my own. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's home page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.