PG. You know my thoughts about PG at this point. A movie with farting dogs: PG.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
Roald Dahl is tough. His books are explorations of imagination and that's all that really pulls a reader in. He creates these fantastic worlds , but I have to admit the plots are always kind of all over the place. It's not to say that Roald Dahl can't work on screen. We all know Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Witches. If you don't know The Witches, I'm going to choose not to scar you or your children with nightmares that will forever haunt them. The movies can work, but probably with a greater deviation from what Dahl presents. I know that literature purists are losing their minds right now, but literature and film are two very different media that allow for different things. My kid read the book with her mom and she really wanted to see the movie. She loved it. I...wanted to love it?
The big thing about both the book and the movie is that they are really charming. Spielberg grabbed that aspect of the book and encapsulated it. I kind of think the same thing happened with Matilda because the charm and the feel of the book is there. Mark Rylance as the giant speaking his gibberish language is all present and well-executed. Capturing dreams is beautiful and I really love the relationship between the two characters. That should be enough for me! I acknowledge this. The heart of the book is there, so I should continue on and start defending the movie from naysayers. But the movie is criminally boring and almost without purpose. We've seen this narrative before and we've seen it done better. Little guy gets picked on by big guys so he shows them what's what. The odd part is that I didn't feel like Sophie's story doesn't really mesh with that storyline. Her purpose is to be there for her friend. She is a character's whose chief traits are loneliness and self-reliance. The nature of bullying and morality really don't come into play outside of the goodness of her heart. So watching this movie through Sophie's eyes, the natural grounding of the movie, just seem removed. She is brave and caring, but we care about the well being of Sophie, not the well being of the BFG. Sure, I don't want to see the giant die, but the element of danger is really removed from the movie.
The saddest aspect of the potential for The BFG is Spielberg's over-reliance on CG. This is the director who brought me Jurassic Park, a movie that defined the relationship between computer generated graphics and practical effects and creature development. Like many CG heavy movies, it doesn't matter how good the movie looks and how good the CG looks, it always has the element of artificiality to it. Instead of going for ultra-realistic, I would have loved to have Spielberg take a note from the book's intentionally simplistic drawings. A claymation giant would have been beautiful. I know that The Little Prince wasn't perfect, but the visuals were stunning and charming and that's what the movie needed. Instead, I can see the burst capillaries in the giant's ears and that would be awesome if the color scheme didn't scream "Look at me, I'm CG!"
I really wanted to like the movie. My daughter fell in love with it and I'm super glad she did. My wife abhorred it, actively rolling her eyes at me. I think I fell somewhere in the middle. Farting monarchs are cool and can be funny, but I don't know if the movie earned the joke. I applaud Mark Rylance for his performance. I still find it weird that he got so much attention for Bridge of Spies, but this movie showed me that the guy has some chops. He's a good actor, but he didn't have much to work with. The world is bananas, but the lack of any kind of real grounding just made the movie feel more like a Star Wars prequel than something that Sophie could have interacted with. Die Another Day should have been the warning call for all computer generated action. There is no real threat when nothing is really happening on screen outside of a green screen. At one point, a giant uses a car as roller skates with Sophie inside. I should have been terrified. But none of it happened. It looked cheap and CG and golly, I am sounding like a broken record. CG has its place, but it should enhance reality, not replace it. You know what? The movie felt lazy. That's my problem with it. I know that Spielberg is a master craftsman and this just looked like something he slapped together. Ah well, I'll probably have to watch it a million more times if my daughter gets it as a gift.
So I had better learn to love it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.