Film Review: “The BFG”

Starring: Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour 57 mins
Walt Disney Films

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

Film Review by Mike Smith

In 1982, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison teamed up to create one of the greatest family films of all time, “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.” Both earned Oscar nominations for their work, with the film earning a nod for Best Picture and taking home the prize for John William’s amazing musical score. More than a quarter-century later, the band is back together and history just may repeat itself.

London in the early 1980s. As the city sleeps, young Sophie (Barnhill) walks about the orphanage she calls home, taking in the various sights and sounds of the night. It’s 3:00 a.m. The Witching Hour. Sophie recites the three rules: Never Get Out Of Bed; Never Look Out the Window; Never Look Behind the Curtain. Sadly she doesn’t follow them, and in doing so spots a rather tall shape making its way through the dark streets. Realizing that the “shape” has seen her she retreats to her bed. First place they look!

Based on Roald Dahl’s book, in the hands of director Spielberg, “The BFG” becomes a new masterpiece that the whole family will enjoy. And while Spielberg is obviously the captain of this amazing ship, what makes it great is the performance of Mark Rylance. Revered on the stage, Rylance had done a total of eleven films in 30 years before he rose to fame with an Academy Award winning performance in Spielberg’s Cold War-era thriller “Bridge of Spies.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this film makes him the first actor nominated for a vocal performance only.

The story follows Sophie as she ends up in Giant Country, only to learn that the BFG (which is what she calls the Big Friendly Giant) is really rather small in the neighborhood. There are nine giants must bigger than BFG and they love the taste of little children. Which surely proposes a problem for young Miss Sophie. As we follow the mismatched pair, we learn about the magic of dreams and nightmares and even spend a little time with Queen Elizabeth II. Rylance’s performance helps the film jump off the screen and Spielberg shows he is still a master behind the camera. To use the BFG’s own words, “The BFG” is “Scrumdidilyumptous!”

Theatre Review: “Matilda” Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

Matilda the Musical
Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
May 24, 2015
Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Review by Mike Smith

As an owner of a satellite radio one of my guilty pleasures is the “On Broadway” channel. Lots of show tunes, both old and new. One of the shows whose score I’d heard, but hadn’t seen, was the story of the girl who likes to read, “Matilda.” I was happy to learn that it would be kicking off the season this year at Starlight. That being said, I wasn’t as happy when I left the theater.

Based on the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl, “Matilda” tells the story of a young girl born to uninterested parents. Her mother (Darcy Stewart) is upset that her labor has interrupted her goal of dancing in an upcoming contest. Dad (Brandon McGibbon) is a car salesman who is so upset at having a girl he continuously refers to Matilda (a very good Lily Brooks O’Bryant) as a boy. “I’m a girl,” the young lady repeatedly reminds him. They send her off to school, but, as a young child, she is put in the worse class where all she gets for her love of reading is lectures by the school mistress, Miss Trunchbull (David Abelles). Hilarity ensues.

OK, first the good part. The songs are catchy and the young cast members are in good voice and have nailed the choreography. The bad part, especially with the parents, is that their British accents seem forced. And that’s being polite. It’s almost as if they had attended the “Dick Van Dyke School of Accents.” When he played Bert in the film “Mary Poppins,” Van Dyke’s accent was so atrocious – and yes, I know that word rhymes with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – the book’s author, P.L. Travers – refused to let Walt Disney make a sequel.

If you like watching talented children then go see “Matilda.” If not, read the book.