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Tags: box | narrative | office | storytelling

'BFG' Short on Box-Office Magic

James Hirsen By Tuesday, 05 July 2016 07:54 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Disney must have been thinking it would have a big friendly box-office hit on its hands with the timely Fourth of July weekend release of “The BFG.”

Unfortunately for the studio giant, the numbers tell a bit of a different story. “BFG” brought in a modest $19.6 million in box-office revenue. Mixed reviews from critics and some unfavorable comments on social media sites did not help the movie's launch.

In addition, the family-oriented film has a $140 million production budget to overcome and is likely to end up in the loss column for Disney.

The source of the movie script is an iconic children’s book of the same name, which was written by Roald Dahl, author of other fanciful tales that have been adapted to film, including “Matilda,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

Disney snagged Steven Spielberg to write and direct the film. To collaborate on the script, the studio was also able to bring to the project Melissa Mathison (passed away in November of 2015), who was the screenwriter of Spielberg’s 1983 classic “E.T. the Extraterrestrial.”

Astoundingly, the movie is Spielberg’s first film with the Mouse House.

The “E.T.” charm proves to be quite elusive for “BFG” for a number of reasons. In the typical book-to-screen adaptation, the challenge is to fit the voluminous material of a 300-plus or minus-page novel into a 2-plus or minus-hour film.

In “The BFG”’s case, because the book is an illustrated children’s work, there is simply not enough of a story to fill the amount of available onscreen time.

Instead of using cinematic license to enhance the plot, develop the characters, and/or supply the backstories, Spielberg and his collaborator spend an inordinate amount of time on the visual, particularly the imagery of Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography.

The result is an overly sluggish pace that, for the most part, is devoid of warmth, life, and emotion. On a not so minute point, the legendary John Williams's music score sounds confusingly dated, mildly strained, and overly busy.

The film is an odd departure from traditional cinematic storytelling and appears to use an approach that is reminiscent of another of Spielberg's uneven works, “AI.” The lack of story structure yields a stripped down narrative that is unfortunately coupled with some rather drab dialogue.

However, an even bigger issue for “BFG” is an overall cold, disconnected quality that is primarily due to the underdevelopment of key characters.

The acronym “BFG” is a shortened version of the main character’s title, "Big Friendly Giant." In the film an elderly, gentle, oversized mythical man, who when hunched down is as tall as a three-story building, kidnaps a young orphan named Sophie.

In the dead of night, he transports her from a London orphanage to a dank, dark place filled with bigger, harsher, and ever more frightening giants.

The little orphan girl character is sadly mono-dimensional. Her bossy nature poses an obstacle for viewers who are naturally inclined to sympathize with her, cheer on her rescue, and ultimately yearn to fall in love with her. It simply does not happen.

In what is possibly the saddest bit of fallout in the film, Sophie, who seemingly has more wisdom and insight than any other character in the film, fails to win the hearts of the audience.

Aside from the gratuitous flatulence scenes, which are the chief delight of every little boy in the theater, “BFG” offers little in the way of emotion, entertainment, or outright enjoyment.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.


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The film is an odd departure from traditional cinematic storytelling. The lack of story structure yields a stripped down narrative that is unfortunately coupled with some rather drab dialogue.
box, narrative, office, storytelling
Tuesday, 05 July 2016 07:54 AM
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