It's a moment etched in Cannes history. Steven Spielberg's E.T. premiering in 1982 as the closing night film, the famous bike ride to the moon sequence occurring and the entire audience lighting up their lighters in the dark. Goosebumps. Any Cinephile wishes they could have been there for that goosebumps worthy moment. That was then, this is now.
Spielberg's The BFG got its world premiere here at Cannes just a couple of hours ago. The lineups outside to get into the 11:45 am screening at the famous Grand Theatre Lumiere were the biggest the fest has seen so far, but not all got in. Those that did got a chance to catch a film that will only come out on July 1st. Adapting Roal Dahl's famous children's book, Spielberg seems to be at home in the first few scenes, presenting us Ruby Barnhill as orphan Sophie, who gets snatched away by a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). The set-up is all money encompassing the camera techniques and use of music that the famous director is so well-known for.
Things get a bit rocky once Sophie catches a glimpse of the BFG and, worried she might tattle-tale his existence, forces her to come with him to his homeland. The ensuing scenes are rocky, as they try to forcefully explain the do's and donts of the BFG's homeland and his passion for dream-making. That part of the film could have easily been trimmed down in half, but Spielberg is just too in love with the visually colorful world he's created and doesn't let go. Things do get a bit better in the mid-way mark as the action picks up with Sophie and the BFG facing mean, hungry giants and then having to go visit -no joke- the Queen of England.
It's all good-natured fun and if The BFG didn't have Spielberg at the helm it might have garnered far more enthusiastic words from this critic. It is an adamantly well-done action adventure yarn that boasts top-notch special effects and real heart, but it's Spielberg and it's Cannes and expectations are too high. The film is no classic, but it's also no Hook, Spielberg has matured and leaned out his errors since the time of his misbegotten 1991 film.