The BFG (2016)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall & Bill Hader
Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Based on the beloved book by Roald Dahl, The BFG focuses on orphaned human bean Sophie (Ruby Barnhill in her film debut) and her wondrous friendship with an enormous giant (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies). Experiencing unimaginable adventures and facing their biggest fears together, the two once lost souls discover what dreams are made of within each other.
In a career spanning nearly 50 years filled with countless achievements ranging from fantasy to the factual, The BFG marks Director Steven Spielberg’s first production helmed under the magical Disney banner. Reteaming with the creative talent responsible for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial including, the late Screenwriter Melissa Mathison, the long-awaited live-action adaptation maintains the whimsy and heartfelt connections to Spielberg’s more fanciful features with the technical advantages of today’s visual effects exquisitely bringing to fruition the film’s larger than life characters. Exuding unfiltered innocence and bravery to the role of young Sophie, Ruby Barnhill joins the growing list of child actors appearing in a once in a lifetime Spielberg role and excelling beautifully. Continuing their successful collaboration from Bridge of Spies, Academy Award winner Mark Rylance brings a childlike glee and emotional center to the titular role that enriches the film’s chemistry between the tender tall man and his sweet sidekick. Furthermore, the combined efforts of Jemaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows) and Bill Hader (Inside Out) welcome hilariously buffoonish and foreboding clout to the villainous residents of Giant Country in their pursuit for human nourishment and tormenting the BFG.
Faithfully adapted and retaining the signature tongue of the film’s towering characters, The BFG suffers from a simple-mindedness that although, charming and sweet, inhibits the fantasy feature from topping the flawlessness of Spielberg and Mathison's sci-fi classic. Built and thriving on the BFG’s bond with Sophie, their dream-catching adventures and the effectively subtle hints into the giant’s previous friendship with a human, the film’s rather bland and uneventful military climax pales in comparison to its more intimate moments. Bringing renewed laughs to the otherwise cheap gag of fart humor and cloaked with an enchantingly quaint score from go-to Spielberg Composer John Williams (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark), The BFG may not be an immediate classic but, lovingly reminds viewers of the power and necessity for innocent escapism.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The BFG with a reference quality 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Richly capturing the aging wrinkles and intricate gray hair follicles in the BFG’s motion-captured face, skin tones in the film’s human characters excel with natural bliss while, the fog-entrenched streets of London and the giant’s dimly lit cave showcase the utmost revealing of black levels. In addition, textures in the costumes, both real and computer generated, are pristine with the luminescent colors of whizzing dreams glowing beautifully. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that captures the clarity of dialogue and the ambiance of floor creeks and meowing cats, the film’s track supports all areas with no disruption. Furthermore, the bass heavy steps of the giants and John Williams’ highly recommendable score are worthy reminders of the film’s impressive soundscape. Special features include, Bringing The BFG to Life (27:09), an in-depth series of video diaries hosted by Ruby Barnhill with onset footage and interviews from the likes of Spielberg, Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Producer Frank Marshall and many others scattered throughout. Furthermore, The Big Friendly Giant and Me (1:55) is a lovely short told through illustrations inspired from Dahl’s books that detail the BFG’s friendship with the bean that preceded Sophie, Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words of The BFG (3:16) serves as a lighthearted resource to the film’s funky speech patterns and Giants 101 (4:57) finds fellow giants Jemain Clement and Bill Hader detailing the making of their characters and movements. Lastly, Melissa Mathison: A Tribute (5:54) is a farewell featurette to the memory of Mathison containing priceless footage of her on The BFG set collaborating with Spielberg and company. A Sneak Peek at 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37), a DVD edition and Digital HD Code formally conclude the release’s supplemental offerings.
Spielberg’s movie magic teamed with Dahl’s timeless tales may be the cinematic embodiment of pure imagination. A technical marvel with the relationship between human and giant being the film’s true strengths, The BFG, remaining true to its source material, underwhelms in a third act attempt at action excitement. Nonetheless, while Spielberg’s latest may be imperfect, the reunion amongst the human beans behind E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial still offers enough heart and a fine farewell from Mathison worth celebrating alone. Disney’s high-definition presentation is nothing short of remarkable while, its bonus offerings are limited but offer respectable insight into the film’s making.
Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, The BFG can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.