|Ruby Barnhill and Mark Rylance gaze at the tree of dream in, The BFG|
The art of motion capture (mo-cap) has had a bumpy ride over the last couple of decades. For videogames, it was a logical direction to go (starting with Sega's Rise of the Robots and Virtua Fighter). But for movies, it has taken a little longer for audiences to warm up to. When it's just a character, the results seem more positive (Gollum from LOTR, and Caesar from Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).
But with the exception of Avatar (over half of the film was mo-cap), movies engulfed entirely in computer effects and mo-cap have had uneven responses from people. Most think that the people look weird. I believe that that's the reason why films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Beowulf, and Mars Needs Moms, were considered financial failures.
To be honest, some could argue that the stories themselves were the reason along with the mo-cap. It might also be possible that more effort was put into the looks of those types of films instead of the overall big picture. Just because a movie looks good, doesn't mean that you have a good movie.
The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is another mainly motion captured film that looks great, but leaves you feeling unsatisfied with nearly everything else. First off, the story seems to keep setting itself (and the viewer) up for something big (unintentional pun) to happen, and it rarely does. It sort of reminds me of watching a little girl having a tea party with her imaginary friend; It's exciting to her, but it's so boring to watch, that I feel like falling asleep. Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra -Terrestrial, The Adventures of Tintin) knows how to make every technical aspect look top-notch, however I feel no sense of wonder like its main character does (newcomer Ruby Barnhill).
In fact, she seems to be more annoyed that her book reading time at the orphanage gets interrupted by a twenty-four foot giant that looks like an aged Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown), than with the incredulity of it all. A similar mo-cap film from 2009 (A Christmas Carol) was a bit dragging at times, but at least it had the antics of Jim Carrey (Liar Liar) to keep me invested. This one has Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) to keep us company instead. His portrayal of The BFG is genuine and heartfelt, yet it's like being forced to hang out with your Grandpa all day, when you know that there's a big party at your friends house that you're missing. All I can say is, thank God for the Giants.
Aside from the stunningly colorful visuals, the Giants are what keeps The BFG from being a total bore. They enter with an impact, and they leave with one as equal a force or better. With the brilliant acting chops of Jemaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows) as their massive leader, and the wide-ranged skills of Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins) as one of Clement's underlings, The Giants are much more appealing than the forgettable ones from Jack the Giant Slayer (2013).
There's a goofy slapstick that happens with them in the tradition of The Benny Hill Show and similar fare. The small supporting cast that includes Rebecca Hall (The Town) and Rafe Spall (Hot Fuzz), are so inconsequential that they're not worth mentioning. Yet I did anyway.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of The BFG
The Good- The dream tree sequence and the green liquid's affects at the Queen's (Penelope Wilton, Shaun of the Dead) palace.
The Bad- There's something about The BFG's purpose that he's a dream catcher. It's barely explained and it left me wondering what the point was of it. There's mention of a previous child that was with The BFG that we never see. The mystery with that works, but only that. Also, the story ends up with an action sequence that looks like what would come from a kid who was playing with their toys in the bathtub. Cool for them, odd for the rest of us.
The Ugly- This is the first film that I've seen at the theaters where I have fallen asleep at least three times while watching it! I didn't know that that was even possible after seeing Escape from Planet Earth. I only dozed off twice during that one.
The BFG is not a bad movie at all, but the meandering storyline and missed opportunities keeps this from being a classic. The kids might enjoy it though. Hell, you can use this film to knock them out for a few hours if need be. This should be called THE BFP (Bringa Freakin Pillow). I hope that Spielberg's next mo-cap film for the Tintin sequel has more energy to it.
Rating- 5 out of 10
The BFG (2016)
PG | 1h 57min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy | 1 July 2016 (USA)
A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Melissa Mathison (screenplay), Roald Dahl (based on the book by)
Stars: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton