The same can be said for when the BFG interacts with the human world giving dreams to children. He sneaks around the town unseen with a grace and flow, showing that he has gone on these journeys all of his life. The portal linking the human world to Giant Country is left a mystery, showing nothing but a cloudy bank, which cleverly leaves it to the imagination of the viewers. The will-o'-the-wisp dreams the BFG catches glow and fly around the screen, born like raindrops dripping from leaves (in a visual homage to Disney's Fantasia), and they whiz about playfully and with childlike excitement.
This, however, doesn't save The BFG from possibly one of its biggest flaws: Spielberg doesn't take any big risks. The movie doesn't take any major risks at all. The book is as dark as any of Dahl's stories, but the film focuses more on the whimsical fantasy and the lighter atmosphere than it does the darker elements. This is not to say that the movie doesn't try, as Sophie experiences a frightful nightmare and there is the presence of the other human-eating giants. These other giants, however, are barely threatening and are better represented as big bullies, their humor and manner akin to the trolls of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit adaptation instead of truly terrifying. The only real threat they do pose is finding and eating the previous child who knew of the BFG and Giant Country, which is suitably built up but not made scarier.
Much of the film is about exploring this world and seeing what these giants do every day, which should be more exciting and/or terrifying than the film presents it to be. There's a scene where the other giants pick on the BFG and decide to "frolic," or send him down a hill while another giant uses old cars as roller-skates to run into him from another hill. It's not a very funny scene, but this idea presents a major opportunity to go over-the-top and play into the absurdity of what's on-screen. The closest it gets to achieving that in this particular moment is the score by longtime collaborator John Williams, but it's not enough to save it from total boredom.
The BFG's greatest strength, then, is the relationship that develops between Sophie and The BFG, and much of this works because the characters are already strong enough standing on their own. Both have strengths and weaknesses that are explored in their interactions, and both are given time to work off of each other and grow. There are scenes that Spielberg once again follows the "show, don't tell" approach and allows just the visual medium and music to guide the story onward, which is used to its maximum potential and works thanks to the dazzling visual effects and these two characters.
The rest of The BFG, however, is unevenly paced in comparison. The book isn't very long, making it difficult to adapt to begin with, but at a running time of almost 2 hours, the bulk of the film drags on and on and on with its major flaws in the middle. The beginning is rushed to launch the story into Giant Country as soon as possible, yet the third act is anticlimatic and sudden. Everything else, with all of its flaws, drags the film to walking pace instead of shifting into a new gear. Exceptions to this are the scenes with Sophie and The BFG in Dream Country, and the interactions with the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace, which are executed well and brilliantly brought to life. The BFG's fizzy drink, the Frobscottle (where bubbles fizzle downward instead of upward, causing farts), does make an appearance, but its humor doesn't really work until the scenes in Buckingham Palace, and what does occur is probably one of the best fart jokes captured on film in recent memory (involving high officials and Welsh Corgis, accompanied to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard performing "Scotland the Brave").
Is The BFG a bad movie? Most definitely not. It's not necessarily good, but it doesn't qualify itself to be thoroughly awful. I wanted to enjoy this film - I really did - but there's so many elements to it that don't work and muddle it down to boredom instead of elevating it to greatness. The strongest moments of the film show glimpses of Spielberg's visionary achievements, but the flaws are too great that it's deprived of latching onto that feeling permanently. Not even the score, for all of the brilliance and genius it does has, helps The BFG obtain those feelings and connections Spielberg is so good at capturing. It can be captivating when it wants to be (especially with the stunning visuals and the two main characters), but as for the rest, it's a hit-and-miss.
Has Spielberg lost his touch? Certainly not, thanks to the successes of his more recent films such as Bridge of Spies and Lincoln. He doesn't show any signs of stopping either, already at work on his next science-fiction project Ready Player One and a fifth Indiana Jones movie. However, kid's films these days are more colorful and zany than ever before, with more humor that works and much more fun to be had. While The BFG has some of these qualities overall, it simply can't keep up.