Never get out of bed. Never go to the window. Never look behind the curtain.
The BFG isn’t just disappointing; it’s incredibly disappointing. It comes, admittedly, right after Spielberg’s best film in a good ten years, Bridge of Spies, so maybe it suffers by comparison, but then again would I really be comparing The BFG to Bridge of Spies? But, anyway, this film is dreadfully bad, easily Spielberg’s worst since Hook. Mark Rylance, fresh off an Oscar-winning performance, is absolutely awful in this. Granted, the film decides to saddle him with a tendency to “hilariously” mispronounce words, which is a comic gambit that was last funny around the time of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Listening to him describe the animals in a zoo/circus made me want to rip my ears out of my head; Rylance goes for a cutesy kind of childlike demeanor and the effect just doesn’t work. “Them be called whizpoppers!” he chortles right before the first (of many; of MANY!) fart jokes in the movie. The general effect of that scene was to make me have a slightly out of body experience, as though I was dreaming the movie and not watching it in real life. Later, the film will revisit this theme in an interminable section of the film where the film pulls a frustrating fake-out by appearing to be building to the climax and then just grinding to a halt while the BFG spends what has to be a full half-hour just hanging around, getting to know the Queen. I mean, you get Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall in your movie and you feel obligated to give them more than five minutes of screen time or something, but, my God, does this part of the movie go on FOREVER. And then we get the second fart scene in which more people fart than at the latest bean cookoff at the rodeo. Three dogs fart, actually, so not just people. Dogs are propelled THROUGH THE AIR BY FARTS. There were families in my theater; some of them had very young children. The silence during this scene was deafening. Not even the youngest children found this scene funny in the least; but you can feel Spielberg’s desperation: MUST BE FUNNY MUST BE FUNNY FARTS ARE FUNNY. The comedy in general here is painfully unfunny.
There are a couple of good things. Ruby Barnhill is quite good as Sophie and the world-building is very well done. I loved the BFG’s home. It felt lived in and warm; the ship bed was genuinely one of my favorite things about the movie. The special effects were sometimes good; the dreams were interesting and the dream world on the other side of the lake was quite beautiful. And, totally surprising, Williams turns in his best score in what feels like at least ten years. A movie as good as The Force Awakens got wallpaper, but this hunk of nonsense inspired a genuinely beautiful score. Go figure. But the film is too long, painfully unfunny, mostly poorly acted and, taken as a whole, a failure like Spielberg hasn’t had in a super long time. Consider the Bridge of Spies renaissance over; we’re back in the Dark Ages. BFG? WTF? BFD. 1 star.
tl;dr – Spielberg’s painfully unfunny, dreadfully paced & poorly acted film is doubly disappointing because it follows his excellent Bridge of Spies; great score & production design though. 1 star.