Ages 11 and under
Male and Female
While this book has stayed in the back of my head for years, I never lost my love of fairy tales, particularly in what Disney can do with them. Then Steven Spielberg announced his upcoming project focused on the classic: very dumbfounding considering how he has long ago retired the captivating child fantasies for much more mature political studies. My admiration of Spielberg’s heart for filmmaking did not affect my concern on how it would result; at the same time, I knew The BFG needed to scare us and make us smile at the same time, reminding us of the good in the world.
The Big Friendly Giant himself, portrayed through CGI magic by Mark Rylance, makes any true kid at heart fall in love with him. What he does is simple: he snatches children in the night at the witching hour, and takes them away into Giant Country. It’s the only company he could ever find, as the other, much larger giants see him as an insult to giant peoples. During the day, he catches dreams found in a magical tree, sorts them into jars, and blows them into children’s heads at night. Much like the sandman or the tooth fairy or old Saint Nick, here is yet another entity for children’s nighttime fantasies. This elephant-eared giant may look evil at first as he hides his way through London’s streets, but after hearing his kindly, sluggish speech, you instantly feel a personal connection with him. It’s just a shame that the film is anchored by an unbelievable relationship between the BFG and little Sophie.
Ruby Barnhill plays the orphan who stays up during the witching hour with the cat, and I could easily imagine any other actress in her shoes and playing the part possibly better. She isn’t introduced with much detail, as she is carried away by the BFG too soon to create interest in following her journey. It wasn’t scary, as intended, and nobody explained why the BFG chose her in particular to bring home.
Even without the girl-giant bond, the environment makes up for the entertainment. Composer John Williams does it again with his spellbinding sounds of sweet dreams, and production designer Rick Carter (Lincoln, Jurassic Park) recreates the large color of dreams with an upside-down tree shrouded with all the glowing sprites of dreams. Together, they create a spectacular light-show of northern lights, dripping leaves, and sprite chasing like we’ve all felt at some point way back when. If only the creative geniuses went back to old-school special effects without all the obtrusive CGI, then these moments would have felt all the more nostalgic for the generations beyond the millennials.
If you ask me, the feature’s third act officially lost me in its imagination and realism. Basically, Sophie sets a plan with the BFG to get rid of the other giants by sending a nightmare into the head of the queen. So they together successfully make it past the guards and get the nightmare into the queen’s head, following with a scene so atrocious in direction that I am ashamed to place it along with the rest of the movie. Penelope Wilton, the actress portraying the queen of England, put no effort at all into her part, and the entire direction of the scene felt purely uncomfortable and out of place. At least it follows with an amusing if overlong sequence where the queen gladly welcomes the BFG by treating him to a huge breakfast, with a pitchfork and sword substituting for a fork and knife. Thinking back to Spielberg’s history of portraying the political system on screen, I expect him to have done more with this historically relevant scenario to make things flow better. Alas, we just can’t have the best of both.
It disheartens me a bit to say that not enough was done with this whimsical fairy tale. The “so what” factor falls short compared to simple tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Pinocchio. But judging by the first two-thirds, the childhood escapism successfully triumphs. It teaches little ones the reward of being a good giant besides a greedy giant, and reminds older readers of these stories’ timelessness over hundreds of years. If we learn not to be afraid of the observant wandering child within us all, then we too can become little friendly people who can live happily ever after.
The way this movie was made reflects how the average person saw the world as a child: glowing bright colors illuminating the inky blackness, free-feeling music, and kindly legendary figures protecting us from the forces of adulthood. As human beings, we all acknowledge that we at some point in our youth saw the world as much more innocent and free, but age made us realize that real life has rules to mend together a deeply broken world. Therefore, we abandoned our old memories.
Yet that’s not entirely the case with somebody on the autism spectrum. It is far more common for somebody with ASD or Asperger’s or Down Syndrome to keep their fantasies much longer, even well into adulthood if it helps deal with the pressures of life.
It has happened to me as I have seen it happen to countless others on the spectrum: even as an adult, an obsession over children’s programs or toys remains equally as strong as when they were little. Why is this so prevalent in autism you may ask? Well, there are a number of reasons why:
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #20: Trying New Things Isn’t Very Fun.
We all like to stay in our comfort zones, but to somebody with autism, a comfort zone can take on meaning to present a safe-place away from anything that can trigger potential sensory overload. As the world is full of loud noises and unexpected surprises, when an individual on the autism spectrum at the end of the day retreats to watching his favorite childhood movie or TV show, all is well. So in a constantly changing world where we are constantly pressed to try new things, reflecting back to a time before said change allows somebody with autism to quickly regain himself.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #79: Sometimes the Smallest Changes are Hardest.
This could mean something as small as a change in routine. Instead of going to brush teeth and then take a shower, you could be told from a mental health article that reversing the two improves your hygiene, thus having to make the very difficult shift in a strict routine. Many people with autism would not like it if another person, especially one they don’t know personally, told them what changes need to be made. But if they hear these words from Big Bird or Mickey Mouse, in the form of a stuffed animal companion voiced by another, then the change feels less scary.
One last thing to know about the comfort childhood memories play for somebody on the autism spectrum is one that no one would often consider: They don’t mind if others their age have grown out of their interest because…
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #11: They Play Very Well By Themselves.
This reminds me of when I was in grade school. Particularly in second and third grade, I had no real friends worth mentioning. So I had nobody to watch my favorite TV shows with or learn about what shows they liked to watch. Therefore, at this point, every morning I was still watching TV shows aimed strictly toward the preschool age. They weren’t even shows I watched at the time I was little, rather, I was unable to transition out of this pattern of watching my station every morning. Keeping this morning routine provided comfort.
Even today, I still hold on to several of my favorite shows and movies as if I was still in my youth. You can still catch me quoting episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants from memory, and Disney/Pixar is still my go-to for calm, relaxing entertainment.
We all have those nostalgic images that we hold on to no matter how old we get, and there’s nothing wrong with it as it helps us maintain our innocence in the corrupt world. What people on the autism spectrum need more aid in is to transition out of their old routines, so that they can grow up and try new things.
- Help your autistic child to grow out of an overly obsessed childhood memory by using said memory. I said this before, but if you need your child to focus on something besides the Muppets, use a Kermit the Frog puppet to speak to him. I guarantee he’ll answer to that.
- Don’t discourage your child from holding on to a couple of movies or TV shows he watched as a child, and don’t force other interests onto him as an adult. This is something that takes time and self-discovery on the child’s part.
- To encourage your child to try new things, take it one-step at a time, with baby steps. First, simply introduce your child to the change. Next, do only one part of the change. Then in time with gradual steps, the new change will be less scary and troublesome towards autism.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
The BFG. Disney, Web. <http://movies.disney.com/the-bfg>.
Disney Movie Trailers. Disney's The BFG - Official Trailer 2. Digital image. YouTube, 15 May 2016. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1fZg0hhBX8>.
Flicks And The City 2. The BFG Interview - Steven Spielberg. YouTube, 6 Apr 2016. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2EVc1zljx4>.
GOBBLEFUNK: Dahl Dictionary. The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl. Blogger, Web. <http://wonderfuldahl.blogspot.com/p/dahl-dictionary.html>.