With The BFG, the startling run of Steven Spielberg duds continues. After delivering two of the dullest movies of his career (Lincoln, Bridge of Spies), Spielberg has done the seemingly impossible: He’s made Roald Dahl completely boring.
Oscar winner Mark Rylance delivers a motion-capture CGI performance as the central character—the Big Friendly Giant—that results in more yawns than smiles. His giant captures dreams and blows them into the sleeping residents of London.
On one of his excursions, he kidnaps Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and takes her to the land of giants. Most giants are meat-eaters; luckily, BFG is a vegetarian, but he’s being bullied by a group of bad giants, led by Jemaine Clement, in what amounts to the film’s most fun motion-capture performance.
Despite a winning performance from Barnhill, a true star in the making, the film drags on and on, trying to get by on big special effects rather than a story line that engages. Everything feels a little off: A visit to the queen’s house, which should be bizarrely funny and subversive, winds up feeling awkward and uncomfortable. The whole movie seems to be playing it safe in Dahl land, with a decidedly E.T. vibe, and it throws the tone completely off. (It doesn’t help that John Williams rips off his own E.T. score.) It never clicks. Nothing really works.
Steven Spielberg is responsible for some of the greatest movies ever made. If he makes stinkers for the rest of his life, he’s still one of the most amazing men to sit in the director’s chair. That said, here’s hoping for a return to form soon—perhaps with another crack at Indiana Jones.
The BFG is most definitely one of the year’s bigger disappointments.
The BFG is playing at theaters across the valley.