Finding Dory continues to rake in cash for the House of Mouse and it’s possible that Disney could have the top four highest grossing films in 2016 before the dust settles. Unfortunately for Disney, The BFG is going to end its extraordinary run of financial success. The BFG only made $18.77 million in its opening weekend, against a budget of $140 million, and will be lucky to earn half of that back. It’s actually quite puzzling as to why the film did so poorly. It has all the pedigree of a blockbuster: The film is co-produced by two of the biggest names in the business, Spielberg and Disney, it’s based on the Roald Dahl classic of the same name which has sold over 37 million copies, and it's a fun, family friendly, and visually stunning film.
The BFG takes place in the United Kingdom in the early 1980’s. The plot focuses on a precocious young orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who sees The BFG (Mark Rylance), short for Big Friendly Giant, late one night. The BFG kidnaps her and takes her to Giant Country so she doesn’t reveal his existence. There, a budding friendship blossoms, and they resolve to try and stop other dangerous giants from eating humans. Having not read the book since the second grade, I cannot tell you the differences between the book and the film, nor can I tell you if the film does the book justice. But the film does showcase Spielberg's almost effortless talent as a master of visual effects, storytelling, and heartwarming charm.
Despite Spielberg's charm and grace as a director, the film is not without flaws. The film sputters around in the second act, despite it’s amazing visuals, until the evil Giants show up to wreck The BFG’s home and his day. While it’s beautiful to watch the BFG collect dreams, it's never really explained why he does this. It’s also unexplained why the BFG risks being captured or seen by humans whilst delivering dreams to them (a very thankless job). The closest thing to an explanation is it’s his work, and just what he does, which is a fine but not a very satisfying reason. Perhaps because he has nothing in common with his Giant brethren he seeks out human companionship, but that doesn’t explain why he delivers dreams to them and actively avoids being seen. However, the BFG’s dream delivery is still used to showcase the film’s amazing visuals and the resourcefulness of the BFG as he skillfully hides in plain sight. Lastly, without wishing to spoil anything, the ending came across as quite a jarring mix of real world intrusion that just seemed odd.
Along with the visuals, the two leads, Ruby Barnhill and Mark Rylance are fantastic and have great chemistry with one another. Ruby, unlike Neel Sethi of The Jungle Book, is actually a really good child actor. Sophie is brave, adventurous, defiant, and imbued with a strong moral sense of right and wrong despite her young age. Mark Rylance also does an amazing job as The BFG, an adorable benevolent giant who just wants to try and protect Sophie, do good in the world, and go about his work collecting and distributing dreams. Rylance melts into the role of The BFG with the help of amazing visuals, but he still deserves credit for his voice acting as The BFG struggles to speak proper English and constantly makes up hilarious gibberish that’s initially difficult to understand but extremely endearing.
Perhaps the stiff competition from a crowded box office dampened enthusiasm, or perhaps the Roald Dahl tale isn’t as well known or well liked with Americans as in the U.K. Maybe Disney should have released the film a little later in July after Finding Dory stopped crushing the box office, so families didn’t have to choose between the two. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame the film isn’t doing as well as it should. Despite its few flaws, The BFG is a sweet, heartwarming, and vivid film that continues the extremely high bar that both Spielberg and Disney set for their films. You could do a lot worse than The BFG this summer.
TLDR: The BFG is another extremely well made Spielberg movie that falls short of classic territory. The film is visually gorgeous, heartwarming, and entertaining for all ages. 3.5/5 Stars.