A 10-year-old girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) lives in a London orphanage and is often awake at the Witching Hour of the Night. She sees an elderly giant (Mark Rylance). Known as Runt by the other giants, he is only 24-feet tall. He captures Sophie and takes her home to Giant Country. He cannot let her go because she will be eaten by the other giants and he cannot bring her back to London because she could reveal their existence.
In his Dream Workshop, he creates a nightmare to keep her with him. The workshop is invaded by the Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement), the 54-foot leader of the giants, to have a boo-boo fixed on his finger. He smells Sophie but is convinced to leave. Sophie persuades the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) to take her to Dream Country. They accidentally awaken the giants and the Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) suggests they frolic, which involves them bullying the Runt. A thunderstorm drives them into a cave, but the Fleshlumpeater finds Sophie’s blanket.
In Dream Country, Sophie and the BFG catch both good and bad dreams. She accompanies him to his work in London, which involves using his Dream Trumpet to give good dreams to sleeping children. They return to Giant Country after the other giants are finished eating children around the world. The BFG leaves Sophie outside her orphanage. His last companion had been eaten and he knows they have her blanket. But Sophie jumps off her balcony and he has to catch her.
They return to the Dream Workshop and the other giants turn up, hunting for Sophie. She manages to hide but they destroy the workshop and the BFG drives them off with a hot iron. Sophie finds something left behind by the BFG’s last human—a portrait of Queen Victoria. This gives her an idea: create a nightmare for Queen Elizabeth II (Penelope Wilton) about giants eating children, the British Army fighting the giants, and Sophie appearing to her. Sophie and the BFG go to Buckingham Palace and deliver the nightmare. In the morning, the Queen and her staff, her maid Mary (Rebecca Hall) and her butler Mister Tibbs (Rafe Spall), find Sophie on the windowsill. She introduces the BFG and he has breakfast with the Queen, then he and Sophie lead the British Army into Giant Country.
The BFG plans to use his Dream-Trumpet to give the giants bad dreams, but he has forgotten the trumpet. Sophie brings the nightmares directly to the giants but is confronted by Fleshlumpeater, the only one who is not induced by the dreams to feel guilty about eating children, and they are all ensnared by military helicopters. The giants are taken away to a distant island where there is nothing to eat but Snozzcumbers, a particularly disgusting vegetable. Sophie is adopted by Mary and lives in the Palace. The BFG returns to Giant Country and writes a story about Sophie. They exchange thoughts often.
The film was directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Melissa Mathison shortly before her death, and based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 novel. Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall were largely responsible for its production, together with Sam Mercer, Amblin Entertainment, and Walt Disney Pictures. It premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It received favorable reviews but was a box-office bomb, not unusual in the Covid Era. For a time, Robin Williams was to play the BFG, but his improvisational style clashed with the unique language of the giants. The Roald Dahl Estate approved highly of Spielberg directing. Ten-year-old student Ruby Barnhill was a find. WETA Digital did the effects and John Williams the music. It was unfavorably compared to ET. Well, Duh!
Spielberg was raised on Grimm’s Fairytales, which he considered dark and frightening, but he praises Roald Dahl and Walt Disney for keeping the dark center in children’s stories. The novel BFG has been published in 41 languages. Dahl passed away in 1990, but his wife has remained involved in his work. The Buckingham Palace Grand Ballroom in the film is a perfect replica. Sets were built for 50-foot giants, a 24-foot giant, and a slightly oversized set to make Sophie look even smaller. 2016 was the hundredth anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth. The poster for the movie almost exactly matches the first-edition book cover. Disney lost between 90 and 100 million dollars on the movie, possibly because it was released only two weeks after Finding Dory. It’s not a major film by Spielberg standards, but it’s charming and quite funny. I love Roald Dahl’s weird take on fantasy, and so do children.