Roald Dahl is my favorite author of books for children. I'm not sure there would have been a J.K. Rowling had there not been a Mr. Dahl. His books (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and others) are very droll, very witty, very touching and, well, very British. Therefore, Hollywood always seems to think it needs to throw a couple of big buckets of yankee-doodle-paint all over his stories to make them more palatable to American kids. One might have thought that the Harry Potter movies would have disproved this but by the looks of The BFG, it hasn't.
Now, to be fair, The BFG (I've always disliked the title) is one of Mr. Dahl's more "slight" adventures and, in keeping, is one of director Steven Spielberg's slightest films as well. The movie is light on fun but heavy on earnestness and production values; it's lovely to look at but the adaptation of the book is clumsy and overstuffed. That yankee-doodle-paint I mentioned is in the color of Spielberg, which means there's lots of complicated, whimsical props.
Basically, the story revolves around a little orphan girl (charmingly portrayed by Ruby Barnhill) being befriended by a big, friendly giant and a single adventure involving saving children, the Queen of England and some not-so-friendly giants. What could have been a marvellous, taut and magical ninety minute motion picture is, instead, a perfectly pleasant one.
I think there are two fundamental issues that prevent this from being a great movie:
The character design and CGI animation seem, like, two operating systems ago and have that "dead doll" look they all used to have. We've seen a lot better.
Mark Rylance (Academy Award for Bridge of Spies) is a great actor but I don't think has the requisite goofiness necessary for this character. It's not the first time I've watched a film and felt terrible that Robin Williams wasn't alive to play a part.
The third act of is the most satisfying as is usually the case with a Spielberg movie. Even if it's not one of his best he always knows how to end a movie, dammit, defying you not to shed a sweet tear. In fact, "sweet" is a good word to describe BFG, the movie.
Despite best intentions, Hollywood has not done well by Roald Dahl. James and the Giant Peach is a mediocre movie, Matilda is a B-movie, in both film adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the character of "Willy Wonka" has virtually nothing to do with the personality created by the author whatsoever. The only production of anything that's ever captured the flavor of his books, for me, is the musical stage version of Matilda. Go see it if you ever get the chance.
Most families will have pleasant enough time at The BFG but be warned; the pace of the first half made quite a few smaller kids to get squirmy. Most were engaged by the time we got to the most elaborate and gloriously produced fart joke in the history of cinema.
(Loudinni specializes is film reviews under 500 words and sans spoilers.)