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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Giant Disappointment

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday June 23, 08:16 pm
Spielberg’s take on Dahl’s tale lacks magic

Opens July 1
3 out of 5

In the eyes of the general public, Steven Spielberg is the greatest working director of our time. Alas, his films are not always an event. As of late, high profile efforts such as Lincoln and War Horse mix with more modest endeavors. His adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG falls into the latter camp — an efficient children’s tale that may struggle to find a more adult audience.

The BFGis particularly faithful to the source material, down to the visuals (all of them supersized on screen, of course). A spirited orphan battling insomnia named Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) discovers a gangly giant roaming around London (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies). In order to secure her silence, he takes her to Giant Country, a place where he is the runt of the litter.

Turns out the kidnapper is not a bad guy, and the purpose of his nightly visits to the city is to supply children with happy dreams. Unfortunately, the other giants would rather have them for breakfast, a hankering that puts Sophie in extreme danger.

While Spielberg doesn’t tinker with the story too much (the screenplay was written by E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison, who passed away last November), he does create some memorable scenes. The BFG hiding in plain sight is pure elegance, while his visit to Buckingham Palace is screwball comedy bliss. However, the outcome feels staged. The extensive CGI gets in the way of fluidity. It’s perhaps unavoidable, given that a four-foot tall girl and a giant six times her size must share the screen.

Even though the acting is top notch (kudos for going with the smart-looking girl), and the film exudes directorial competence, The BFG doesn’t have the heart of Spielberg’s best work. Maybe it’s asking too much, but we know that he can deliver.

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