A young girl named Sophie lives at an orphanage, where she spends her nights dodging the matron so she can read late into the night hours. One night at 3 a.m., which she dubs the “witching hour,” she witnesses a giant in a cloak down the street. The giant sees her looking at him, grabs her, and takes her off to giant country where she finds that this giant isn’t so bad after all. As their friendship grows she learns about his work catching and shaping dreams which he then gives to sleeping humans. She names him the BFG, which is short for “Big Friendly Giant.”
This pleasant time doesn’t last forever, however, as her presence draws the attention of other, stupider, meaner, man-eating giants. What’s more, these evil giants have been stealing away children from the human world to eat. Can she and the BFG survive their viciousness? Who can they turn to for help? Can they put an end to these monsters’ murderous ways?
The film is very definitely aimed at children. The plot and characters are all structured like an old-fashioned fairy tale. Adults can quite easily find the story cute, and the visuals are very good, but aside from that they will find little to chew on. At the very least, the humor isn’t nearly as offensive as that of movies like “Minions” or the “Ice Age” series.
I am concerned for the film’s success because of how out of step the film is from modern tastes in kids’ films.
It moves much more slowly, it has much less slapstick humor, and it has far more moments and visuals that build their appeal on wonder and enjoyment of friendship than the chaos that defines current sensibilities. I think many modern kids would be bored, quite frankly, and that’s a shame. In the end, it’s really a film that appeals to those who have a sense of nostalgia for the way children’s stories used to be told, and it doesn’t offer much to anyone else.
While I never read this particular book as a child (I wasn’t exposed to much Roald Dahl) it reminds me a great deal of many of the books I did read. Like those books, plot logic doesn’t really matter, and character growth doesn’t really matter, instead, “The BFG” relies on relationships and experiencing the weird or wonderful. In that, it succeeds very well. The relationship between Sophie and the BFG is the heart of the film.
However, the fact that “The BFG” succeeds in this manner comes with the downsides as well as the upsides of those goals. The plot of the film isn’t very satisfying. The BFG’s reasons for bringing Sophie to giant country at the beginning of the film don’t make much sense and is clearly an excuse for the story to happen the way it does. The protagonists have very little agency throughout the film. Bad things happen to Sophie and the BFG, but their response is mostly to either take it on the chin or find someone else who can solve the problem for them. When the solution comes at the end of the book, it doesn’t feel satisfying or earned. It’s really mostly played for laughs.
“The BFG” is very simply a fairy tale. The audience is meant to take pleasure in the wonder of seeing a giant, or watching the dancing lights of the dreams, or to wonder at the speed and heights that the BFG can go. They are to smile at the sight of a ship in the giant’s house, and wish that they could climb around the nooks and crannies of his workshop. They are meant to chuckle at the strange sounding words that the BFG speaks, and grimace at the disgustingness of the snozzcumbers.
It’s not particularly important to watch Sophie grow and overcome challenges. It’s not important to put together a complex plot to defeat the giants. It’s far more important to enjoy the times Sophie spends chatting with the BFG. It’s nice, but it’s not for everyone.
If you were thinking about watching “The BFG,” I would say there is no reason not to. “The BFG” is a perfectly pleasant and harmless movie, but it also doesn’t do much for me, personally. While it’s great for kids, and I could easily see reading the book and watching the film with my own future children, right now I’d only buy “The BFG” if I found it in…
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