If there’s one director working today who can be described as possessing movie magic, it has to be Steven Spielberg. The guy made us terrified of sharks, showed us how an alien can be a boy’s best friend and even convinced us that dinosaurs could once again walk the earth. Lately, his filmography has consisted of more prestige historical dramas, such as Lincoln and Bridge of Spies. While this is fine, I’ve been hoping to see him make a return to the more fantastical stories that made us fall in love with him in the first place. The BFG is definitely a step in that direction; it might not be the great return that we were hoping for, but it certainly has its moments and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job with the material.

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a lonely young girl who wanders the halls of her orphanage at night due to her inability to sleep. One night, she hears a strange noise outside and after venturing over to the window for a peek, she spots a giant being (Mark Rylance) wandering the streets. This giant grabs her out of her bed and carries her to giant country. While she is initially frightened by this miraculously tall individual she soon learns that, unlike other giants, he doesn’t actually eat children. This giant is a vegetarian and he’s nicknamed the BFG (Big Friendly Giant). He and Sophie begin to form a close bond that’s put to the test when the two of them are forced to contend with a group of dangerous giants, led by the hateful Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).

Based on Roald Dahl’s classic 1982 children’s book, The BFG is a solid effort from all involved, featuring humor, heart and great visual effects. The core of the film is the relationship between Sophie and the BFG and the two great performances from Barnhill and Rylance ensures that their friendship feels as real as possible. Barnhill’s Sophie is charming and relatable, giving us a nice point-of-view as we enter this strange world of giants. Rylance excellently captures the unique personality of the BFG and the screenplay from the late Melissa Mathison hilariously showcases his inability to grasp the English language. This is a legitimately funny film, one that will generate laughs from audience members of any age. A third-act sequence in Buckingham Palace is nothing short of delightful and it gives us the rare opportunity to see Spielberg attempt a fart joke and actually succeed.

What ultimately drags the film down is that it’s pretty forgettable and lacks any fun adventure sequences. It opens strong, sags a lot in the middle, before ending on a high note. Maybe this is just because the film feels too long, but adding in more memorable moments of suspense and adventure certainly wouldn’t have hurt. And while everything regarding the BFG’s concoctions of dreams is an essential part of the plot, its portrayal onscreen is pretty boring. Spielberg does the best he can with the material and while it has its problems, more things work than don’t. Spielberg may be getting older, but he hasn’t forgotten how to make a movie for kids.

The BFG receives 3/4