|There’s a secret about children that Steven Spielberg, Melissa Mathison and Roald Dahl have always known — that no matter how innocent, kids are as capable of understanding darkness as adults, and sometimes even more so. It’s not that it’s some completely unacknowledged truth, but it is one that rarely seems to permeate what we consider “children’s entertainment” in any real way. It just makes adults too uncomfortable. It’s also the reason why the under-10 set flocks to Dahl.|
A measured embrace of the deep menace in Dahl’s words is why this long-time-coming adaptation of his 1982 book “The BFG “ not only succeeds, but shines. It’s not just some pleasant romp into the world of giants. It’s an honest-to-goodness, gut punch of a journey, crackling with heart, uncertainty, and overflowing with all-out wonder.
There’s really no other way to tell a story about an orphan who is captured by a giant and taken to a land crawling with much larger giants who like the taste of human beings, or “beens” as they’re called.
The orphan, Sophie, is played by the newcomer Ruby Barnhill. Sporting a Dorothy Hamill haircut and rounded glasses, this little brunette moppet is a delightful revelation who is at turns feisty, lovable and even a little annoying (in a good way). In other words, she’s a believable kid — a result that Spielberg has been coaxing out of child actors since “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
Thankfully, Sophie has been taken not by man-eaters, but the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance, who was just in Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies”), who prefers to create dreams for the children of England, not snack on them. But Sophie, who lays awake night after night, saw him gliding through the streets of London and she can’t be trusted with the knowledge that giants really do exist, no matter how pure her intentions.
Back in Giant Country, things don’t get off to a great start between Sophie and the BFG either. It takes some trials, some scary dreams, some danger, and some skepticism before their friendship becomes real — but it’s worth the build.
Whether you’ve read “The BFG” a thousand times, or haven’t in 30 years, or even at all, Sophie and The BFG’s impossible bond is bound to break your heart.
Rylance’s BFG is an astonishing meld of real life and CG animation. It’s jarring at first but kids won’t mind, and adults will grow accustomed to it. Thankfully, it somehow stays clear of the uncanny valley. Most importantly, it fits in the context and look of this storybook world, which truly does feel like the page come to life.
There are certain limitations to the form that hinder the full range of a Rylance performance, but what’s here is sufficient, even when he’s flatulent — sorry, whizzpopping — or working his way through Dahl’s twisty language.
The only real misstep is when the humans are introduced. Sophie has had enough with the bullying of the other giants and decides, as in the book, to go convince the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) and her assistants (Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall) to help save the children of England from certain death by giant.
The pacing of this segment goes haywire and feels like too long and meandering a diversion in what is already a long movie. Not to mention the fact that a significant portion of this sequence is devoted to whizzpoppers. It just makes you long to return to Giant Country, the BFG’s gadget-filled home and the land of dreams.
There’s a melancholy hanging over the film, too — that it’s Mathison’s final screenwriting credit. It’s also a lovely exit for a woman who always knew to never write down to her audience, children or not. Mathison died last November of cancer at age 65.
“The BFG,” a Walt Disney Pictures release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor.” Running time: 117 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
LOS ANGELES: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Imax Corp and Imagine Entertainment have announced that “Inferno,” the third film in the Dan Brown-Da Vinci Code franchise, will be digitally re-mastered into the Imax format.
The film, starring Tom Hanks as Dr Robert Langdon and directed by Ron Howard, will be released into Imax theatres worldwide coinciding with the film’s general release dates. “Inferno” will be released domestically on Oct 28.
Rory Bruer, president of Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures, said, “We’ve had an extraordinary response to the film from audiences — it’s testing extremely well.”
The film’s screenplay is by David Koepp, based upon the novel by Dan Brown. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are the producers.
Howard returns as helmer after directing Hanks in the franchise’s previous installments: “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) and “Angels & Demons” (2009). The two previous installments, also adapted from Brown’s novels, grossed more than $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office.
LOS ANGELES: Daniel Craig is in early negotiations to star opposite Halle Berry in “Kings,” the independent drama set against the backdrop of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Deniz Gamze Erguven, director of “Mustang,” is directing “Kings” from her own script in what will be her English-language debut. She’s re-teamed with “Mustang” producer Charles Gillibert.
Should Craig come on board, he will portray a loner who lives in South Central Los Angeles and falls in love with Berry’s character. When the riots erupt, he will help Berry in protecting her children from the violence.
The riots started a few hours after a jury in suburban Simi Valley acquitted four Los Angeles Police officers of use of excessive force in the videotaped arrest and beating of Rodney King in 1991 following a high-speed chase. A total of 55 people died during the riots amid looting, assault and arson causing more than $1 billion of property damage.
Insiders began selling “Kings” last month at Cannes with Berry and Erguven attached. “Mustang” centered on five orphaned teenage sisters in northern Turkey, was nominated earlier this year for an Academy Award for best foreign language film.
Craig was last seen as James Bond in “Spectre,” his fourth Bond movie, and it’s unclear if he’ll return for a fifth. He’s starring in Steven Soderbergh’s heist film “Logan Lucky” opposite Channing Tatum, Riley Keough and Adam Driver and signed on to star in the 20-episode Showtime series “Purity” for producer Scott Rudin and writer-director Todd Field. (Agencies)
By Lindsey Bahr