A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The BFG -- which was directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Roald Dahl's beloved fantasy book -- is about a Big Friendly Giant (BFG) and Sophie, the young orphan he first snatches and later befriends. The movie has a dark tone, and tense moments of peril and danger punctuate the story from the beginning. After Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is kidnapped, she expects the BFG (Mark Rylance) to cook her for dinner, and later she's hunted by the other giants, who love to eat children; these giants are destructive, loud, and scary when they're on screen. In one scene, the BFG plants a nightmare in Sophie's mind when she sleeps just so she'll believe him about how truly bad the other giants really are. Death is also referenced in not-so-subtle ways: Sophie bluntly states that her parents are dead, and the BFG alludes to another human child he used to be friends with who was clearly eaten by the other giants. While the scares are enough to keep the littlest audience members away (or at least with their eyes firmly covered), this tale about discovering friendship and family in the unlikeliest places also offers sweetness, humor, and heart -- as well as themes of courage, empathy, and perseverance. (Oh, and some fart jokes.)
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE BFG, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a young orphan with insomnia, spends her evenings either walking the halls of the orphanage or reading books well into the wee hours of the night. On one of these restless nights, she finds herself face-to-face with "the boogie monster." He kidnaps her and takes her to live on Giant Island; as a result, Sophie spends the beginning of the movie terrified and angry -- she's scared of being eaten and then angry when she learns she’s expected to live on Giant Island for the rest of her life. But gradually Sophie and the "monster" get to know each other, and Sophie learns that he's actually a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), who walks the streets at night placing good dreams into children's rooms. As their friendship unfolds, the BFG shows caring and kindness toward Sophie -- and they work together to try to rid Giant Island of the rest of its scary, bullying residents, all of whom are eager to eat the "bean" (aka "child") that the BFG brought home with him. Sophie and the BFG power through dangerous encounters, terrifying close calls, and sheer hilarity as they discover a deep and truly unique friendship.
Is it any good?
The magic, fantasy, and eventual pure sweetness between the two central characters is nothing short of heartwarming. The BFG has many opportunities to highlight what being a good friend is all about -- and what it means to have strong values. Sophie, a wise-beyond-her-years orphan, is played incredibly well by Barnhill. She's fully developed as a character, but her maturity is lovingly balanced with her regular, child-like ways. This is a welcome change, since "mature kids" in movies and TV shows can often seem sassy and unrelatable.
The visuals live up to director Steven Spielberg's reputation; as always, he has a knack for bringing fantastical elements and creatures into everyday life. As for the BFG himself, Rylance will win audiences over from his first (of many) teary-eyed smile. His giant warmth and compassion, his bumbling language and missteps, and his grit and determination will leave every kid -- and parent -- wanting a BFG of their own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Sophie such a strong character in The BFG. Do you think she's a good role model? Why? Can you think of other movies featuring strong female characters?
What was the scariest part of the movie? Did the scary parts make the movie sadder or more fun? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Why do you think the BFG didn't eat "beans" like the other giants? In what other ways is he different from the other giants?
Kids: If you read the book, how do you think the movie compares? Were there scenes in the movie that looked different in your mind? Do you like reading a book before it gets made into a movie?
- In theaters: July 1, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2016
- Cast: Rebecca Hall, Mark Rylance, Jemaine Clement, Ruby Barnhill
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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