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BFG = Boffo Fart Gag?

Opening this week: The BFG, The Legend of Tarzan, Our Kind of Traitor, and more

The BFG could have used more moments like this. Also, about 30 fewer minutes of runtime.
The BFG could have used more moments like this. Also, about 30 fewer minutes of runtime.
Movie

BFG *

thumbnail

Whether or not you are a fan of fart jokes, you will almost certainly feel something during the protracted run-up and almost equally protracted execution of the one that director Steven Spielberg delivers in his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved story of a runty giant who seeks to atone for the man-eating sins of his fellows by collecting and delivering dreams to the sleeping world. You may share in the delight of the big fellow himself, who regards a good fart as an expression of well-being. You may laugh at the bilious green gas’s propulsive force. Or you may turn up your cinematically offended nose. But at least you’ll feel <em>something</em>, which is more than can be said for most of the rest of the film, which finds Spielberg indulging his taste for effects both garish and goopy while neglecting the emotional connection between orphan (a somewhat wooden Ruby Barnhill) and giant (a sweet, CGI’d Mark Rylance). Neglecting also the palpable dread and danger that should infuse a story involving the eating of children. Indulging also the giant’s mistakifined vocabunaries — which probably worked better on the page — and the runtime in general. There are good bits among the bad (the giant’s bullying, bratty kinfolk especially), but mostly, there’s simply not enough there.

Find showtimes

I never had to tell my daughter to read the book before seeing the movie. All she needed was to see the first film adaptation of her beloved Percy Jackson novels. Now she makes a point of reading first, even if she finds out about a story via a movie trailer. She gets that a book can remain beloved even if the resulting film is a stinker, while a bad film will haunt any attempt to rediscover the tale on the page. Movies tend to hijack the imagination that way.

All this by way of saying that The BFG is a better book than it is a movie.

The general consensus at RottenTomatoes.com is that The Legend of Tarzan suffers from a slow pace and a generic plot. I can’t argue with that. I would add that there’s a surfeit of gauzy, blurry mood shots. And yet: Alexander Skarsgard’s physical inhabitation of a man raised by apes, Margot Robbie’s defiant beauty, Christoph Waltz’s cheerful wickedness, the scene where the Ape Man nuzzles the big cats...I was won over.

I was also won over by Cancer, which is just one of the names given to the wiener dog in Wiener-Dog. I’m a sucker for sweetness amid the horror. As opposed to the sadness within the horror of the documentary Tickled. It kept me fascinated much of the time but left me just a titch sour. (I did enjoy my chat with the co-director, though, as well as my interview with Wiener-Dog writer-director Todd Solondz.)

Scott found a brilliant midsummer gem in the John le Carré story Our Kind of Traitor. (Between this and TV’s The Night Manager, Mr. le Carré is having quite a year.) Scott was less impressed with the Bad Dad baseball movie The Phenom, though at least it had Ethan Hawke and relatively little actual sport.

And the classical music infomercial The Music of Strangers came in for a proper drubbing.

Sadly, I missed the screening of Swiss Army Man. I hope to get there soon. And as for The Purge: Election Year — you’re on your own. Cheers!

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The BFG could have used more moments like this. Also, about 30 fewer minutes of runtime.
The BFG could have used more moments like this. Also, about 30 fewer minutes of runtime.
Movie

BFG *

thumbnail

Whether or not you are a fan of fart jokes, you will almost certainly feel something during the protracted run-up and almost equally protracted execution of the one that director Steven Spielberg delivers in his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved story of a runty giant who seeks to atone for the man-eating sins of his fellows by collecting and delivering dreams to the sleeping world. You may share in the delight of the big fellow himself, who regards a good fart as an expression of well-being. You may laugh at the bilious green gas’s propulsive force. Or you may turn up your cinematically offended nose. But at least you’ll feel <em>something</em>, which is more than can be said for most of the rest of the film, which finds Spielberg indulging his taste for effects both garish and goopy while neglecting the emotional connection between orphan (a somewhat wooden Ruby Barnhill) and giant (a sweet, CGI’d Mark Rylance). Neglecting also the palpable dread and danger that should infuse a story involving the eating of children. Indulging also the giant’s mistakifined vocabunaries — which probably worked better on the page — and the runtime in general. There are good bits among the bad (the giant’s bullying, bratty kinfolk especially), but mostly, there’s simply not enough there.

Find showtimes

I never had to tell my daughter to read the book before seeing the movie. All she needed was to see the first film adaptation of her beloved Percy Jackson novels. Now she makes a point of reading first, even if she finds out about a story via a movie trailer. She gets that a book can remain beloved even if the resulting film is a stinker, while a bad film will haunt any attempt to rediscover the tale on the page. Movies tend to hijack the imagination that way.

All this by way of saying that The BFG is a better book than it is a movie.

The general consensus at RottenTomatoes.com is that The Legend of Tarzan suffers from a slow pace and a generic plot. I can’t argue with that. I would add that there’s a surfeit of gauzy, blurry mood shots. And yet: Alexander Skarsgard’s physical inhabitation of a man raised by apes, Margot Robbie’s defiant beauty, Christoph Waltz’s cheerful wickedness, the scene where the Ape Man nuzzles the big cats...I was won over.

I was also won over by Cancer, which is just one of the names given to the wiener dog in Wiener-Dog. I’m a sucker for sweetness amid the horror. As opposed to the sadness within the horror of the documentary Tickled. It kept me fascinated much of the time but left me just a titch sour. (I did enjoy my chat with the co-director, though, as well as my interview with Wiener-Dog writer-director Todd Solondz.)

Scott found a brilliant midsummer gem in the John le Carré story Our Kind of Traitor. (Between this and TV’s The Night Manager, Mr. le Carré is having quite a year.) Scott was less impressed with the Bad Dad baseball movie The Phenom, though at least it had Ethan Hawke and relatively little actual sport.

And the classical music infomercial The Music of Strangers came in for a proper drubbing.

Sadly, I missed the screening of Swiss Army Man. I hope to get there soon. And as for The Purge: Election Year — you’re on your own. Cheers!

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