At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The BFG “2016”

MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Fantasy Adventure/ Stars: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Adam Godley, Paul Moniz de Sa, Jonathan Holmes, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Marilyn Norry, Chris Shields, Matt Frewer, Geoffrey Wade/ Runtime: 117 minutes

I think it is safe to say that there are not that that many in the way of young people writers who are as widely regarded in the world of literature or had their literary works brought to life on the silver screen in such a way as the ones penned by Mr. Roald Dahl. Indeed be it the iconic Gene Wilder-starring Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the truly magical 90s take on the story of Matilda, the Angelica Huston-starring (and actually quite chilling) take on The Witches, or even the lively and entertaining animated adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, it is relatively safe to say that the tales spun by Mr. Dahl have managed to keep both readers and film goers enchanted in worlds of pure imagination for a long time thus acquiring for him not only a storied legacy, but also the true honor of having a day in his name thus becoming one of only a select few authors to get such an achievement. To that end, we see that the slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing for you today, The BFG from 2016, is one that marks the latest adaptation of the iconic author’s work whilst also providing to you, the viewer yet another delightfully whimsical slice of cinematic pie to cherish. Indeed even though this story was previously given to audiences on their TV screens, this take on the tale sees the iconic, and young at heart himself incidentally, film helmer Steven Spielberg take charge of reimagining this iconic tale through the utilization of both the latest in visual effects in tandem with the inherent magic Dahl’s stories bring with them for audiences for all ages. Suffice it to say then that the end result, whilst not the best work we as audiences have ever been treated to by Mr. Spielberg or the wonderful cast and crew he has assembled to aid him in his endeavor, is still a winning and magical little slice of cinematic pie that I promise you and your family will cherish and watch time and time again.

The plot is as follows: The BFG tells the story of a young girl by the name of Sophie. Sophie, we quickly learn, is an orphan with a severe case of that pesky devil insomnia who, whilst 95% of the population is fast in bed asleep during that proverbial “witching hour”, is instead walking around the orphanage where she lives among other assorted things due to not really being able to go to sleep. Suffice it to say then that this would explain on the night that our story begins why we find our intrepid young heroine in bed, but reading with a flashlight by her side, and awake enough to hear something going on outside. Yet even though those things turn out to be some people who are just a wee bit too inebriated for their own good and some alley cats going through the garbage, it is after she is done investigating these noises and about to go back to her reading in progress that she sees something that most certainly does not fit in this picture. That something of course would take the form, height, and shape of a giant of a man that is a great deal bigger than any human she has seen in her life. Yet whilst our heroine quickly hides under the covers in bed, it isn’t long before we see the giant reach in through the window, snatch her right up, and proceed to bring her back to his lair where we see things have been increased in size to a scale factor of at least 10 including the giant’s cookware which are just the right size to put a small child for a little bit of “down-home cooking”. Only joking dear reader. You see our intrepid heroine is not in any dire peril when it comes to this behemoth since this giant happens to be of the kind, decent, and (thankfully) not blood-thirsty sort who just wants to ensure that Sophie won’t tell anyone else about him and thus make his life more complicated than it needs to be. Suffice it to say that it isn’t too much of a spoiler to reveal that our dynamic duo actually manage to become very good friends to the extent that we see Sophie soon give our giant pal here the name of, you guessed it, “BFG. Yet when Sophie learns that BFG is not only constantly belittled by the other, significantly bigger giants in the area, but that he also has the power to control and influence just what a person is able to dream of, our dynamic duo soon are able to concoct an elaborate scheme that, if successful, might just be enough not only to deal with the other giants, but also maybe help Sophie find a place that, at long last, she can truly call home.

Now I’m just going to come right and out say it dear reader: this slice of cinematic pie is truly magical in every sense of the word. Indeed here is a movie that is one of the finest unions possible as we see that Dahl’s creativity and Spielberg’s childlike enthusiasm and sense of wonder at the helm manage to blend together to make something that might not be the most novel or even remotely amazing from a thematic standpoint, but is still one that sees both of these iconic men doing what they have always done amazingly well which is utilizing their limitless imaginations to conjure up something that is both comforting and familiar yet also novel and well-crafted. A tad bit ironic when you see that for this movie, the focus of the narrative is on dreams both literally and figuratively. I say that because this movie is in quite a few aspects the merging of dreams and the real world, and the point where what is assumed to be imaginary and what is assumed to be real meet head-on.  Indeed the fact that the movie is blessed with the ability to commit wholeheartedly to, mold, and actually successfully exist in a world that is novel yet also very familiar to our own and filled with characters who, even if they are giants, act very much like you or I would in both thought and deed all help to strengthen the narrative ingredient of dreams and what place they have in how a person’s life is molded. Indeed even if the dreams are made reality and tailor made for the person to whom they belong, there still in this film resides a degree of integrity and understandable as this slice of cinematic pie takes you by the hand and without much in the way of fanfare takes you, the viewer into a magical world that may not exist in the most literal sense of the word, but that on a metamorphically level exists in each and every one of our hearts and souls.

Suffice it to say that, on a thematic level, this film is most assuredly very well done and the same can most assuredly be said about this movie when it comes to how it is put together in regards to its technical ingredients. Indeed Spielberg’s immense talent to brilliantly put a film together in nearly every aspect is, with few exceptions, practically unrivaled in the world of movie magic and even in a movie like this one which involves the merging of the utilization of live mo-cap performances and then digitally making the performers significantly bigger all while keeping the rest of the world of the film on a level we can understand that could not have been that easy to pull off. Yet Spielberg takes this filmmaking challenge head on and deals with a degree of confidence that is quite marvelous to behold. Indeed not only is the movie genuinely good to begin with, but the effects work in this is so extraordinary that you can be forgiven for thinking that Spielberg actually is the first filmmaker in human history to get us footage of real live giants. Suffice it to say then that everything from the phenomenal performances all the way to the exquisite work done by the set design and cinematography departments is truly magical. Yet even more iconic is the film’s score done by just as iconic frequent Spielberg collaborator John Williams. Indeed this is a score that manages to fit the film it is part of as well as a warm glove on a winter day as not only is the score just as magical as the film itself, but it also does a wonderful job of providing gravitas to the deeper themes at play as well as the comedy that is apparent on the surface.

All in all seeing as the year 2016 was the year that would see itself, among other noteworthy entries, as the 100th birthday of the iconic author Roald Dahl, I think it was actually fairly well done on this slice of cinematic pie’s part to use this year as a backdrop for the release of a cinematic adaptation of one of his more timeless stories on the silver screen. A cinematic adaptation I might add that has at its helm one of the most iconic and skilled at creating a bit of movie magic himself film helmers in all of film history. Indeed although this most definitely is not the finest slice of cinematic pie that iconic film helmer Steven Spielberg has ever sought fit to gift audiences with, I can also just as easily say that this is a slice of cinematic pie that most assuredly is aided by his keen directorial senses, quite immersive comprehension of the thematic concepts at play in the narrative, and his wonderful gift for being able to balance the just plain fun and sense of wonder and awe this slice of cinematic pie brings to audiences along with its more significant purpose. Thus when you combine that with not only downright incredible work in the realm of digital effects, absolutely fantastic work from a game cast, delightful work from the production design team behind the camera, and (as to be expected) another top-notch musical accompaniment from brilliant and iconic composer John Williams, The BFG is not just a delightful little film, but also a worthy inclusion into both Spielberg’s filmography and also the realm of movie magic as a whole. On a scale of 1-5 I give The BFG “2016” a solid 3.5 out of 5.