CANNES 2016

Cannes 2016: Steven Spielberg's 'The BFG' Lacks Any Magic or a Story

by
May 17, 2016

The BFG Review

Not even snozzcumbers can fix this film. Why did it feel so bland and so pointless? It's hard to make sense of it. Steven Spielberg's latest film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book The BFG, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Oddly, it seems very out of place here. It's definitely a kids movie, to a fault, as it's the kind of kids movie that you can't really enjoy unless you're younger than 16 years old. And that's not the case for most kids movies (see: Pixar). Spielberg does his best to bring stunning visuals and great performances to the film, but it lacks that magic touch of his previous work, and seriously lacks an actual story. There's a young girl, a friendly giant, lots of snozzcumbers, the Queen of England, but not much else.

Even from the first 20 minutes of the film, I was already wondering where the heck this script is going and why there seems to be no actual story structure. It starts out with a gorgeous shot of London, to establish location, then immediately jumps into the opening lines with newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. From there she meets the "big friendly giant" barely a few scenes later, played through performance capture by Mark Rylance, and they're already off to giant land without much context or setup. At this point I'm already so disinterested in where things are going, that by the time the plot actually has some interesting twists – including a fizzy soda that makes everyone fart, and an encounter with the Queen of England and her corgi dogs – it doesn't add anything to the experience. It's fun to watch, sure, but really that's about it.

Part of the big problem is the lack of any magical, emotional feeling at all throughout the entire film. If it's supposed to be an inspiring and empowering film for kids, then it's supposed to have a nice message that they can latch onto throughout. That message seems to be that our dreams are important and can help take us places or change the world. However, these dreams are realized quite literally as colorful, fairy dust-like dancing characters locked inside jars stored at the BFG's home. But they never amount to much. And even though they go to various beautiful places in giant land and the real world, these visuals feel empty. Which is quite weird because that's not normally the case with Spielberg, and I can't figure out what went wrong.

The marketing is pitching the film as comparable to Spielberg's classic, E.T., but it's nowhere near as good as E.T. by a long shot. That film I can rewatch anytime and still be impressed by it, no matter how old I am. However, The BFG seems to be a one-and-done experience. Maybe it will connect better with young kids, and maybe some people will have fun with it; hopefully it finds that audience. Rylance playing the BFG is wonderful and there are a few very charming moments (like the scene in the teaser image above) but these moments are so far and few between that they don't leave any lasting impression. Which is unfortunate because this film could've been much more magical and inspiring, but sadly that's just not the case. Oh well.

Alex's Cannes 2016 Rating: 5 out of 10
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  • " It's definitely a kids movie" I like kids movies. there's still a living kid somewhere inside of me. But kids deserve respect. and nowadays kids movies lack any sense of respect for their audience. It's just a collection of bland CGI bound with a thin story and almost zero character development. We miss the 80s...
    • RAW_D
      The last "kids" movie I thoroughly enjoyed was Wreck-It-Ralph. Once again, Pixar with the win. The Good Dinosaur was garbage though.
      • I thought wreck it ralph was a disney production. As you saiid, the good dinosaur was on par wirh Planes, another production aimed to toddlers. i stopped watching passed 15 mn.
        • RAW_D
          Oh my bad! You're totally right. It was a Walt Disney Animated Production. I guess I just figured Pixar had a hand in it somehow since Disney owns them. But kids movies today are light on substance, heavy on effect. They need to leave in more mystery and intrigue. Let kids think about the movies more! Don't OVER EXPLAIN EVERYTHING!
          • Indeed. Or don't over do the same fluffy plots. Kids are smart persons who can go beyond many abstract concepts, as their imagination and sensitivities are way more developed than adults ones.
  • To be honest, the trailer left me feeling nothing. First Spielberg movie I will not see. However didn't Williams score this? And yes the 80s were very good to Spielberg. I miss those movies too!
    • First Spielberg movie you will not see ? How about Horse bore ? Now that was a huge Oscar bait that left me emotionless.
      • Spielberg is obviously a master at his craft but even he sometimes can't match his own magic. Happens. Doesn't make him any less of a legend.
        • Agreed. There is only one Spielberg. Cinema would never be the same without him.
  • DAVIDPD
    Ah man...just what I was afraid of...
  • grimjob
    Yeah, nothing about this looked interesting. Shame. Can't win them all as they say, and it seems Spielberg always wins.

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