The BFG

'The BFG' movie poster

Release: Friday, July 1, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Melissa Mathison

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Great Gallywampers and fiddly tweezlesticks, I is very pleased indeed that Steven Spielberg has delivered the goodles in his very first venture into Roald Dahl‘s brilliant imagurnation. The BFG is breathtaker beautiful, and not just thanks to its scrumptioutious imagery, neither. It recalls the warminess and serenity of Brian Cosgrove’s 1989 animated adventure and ‘n fact it mighty jus’ be more endearin’ because of the live-action interplayery.

No, don’t worry, I’m not gonna speak in Dahlian tongues for the entire review. That’s just my overly dramatic way of expressing relief that The BFG turns out to be the real deal, rather than a pale imitator. The story is clumsier than you might expect with a Spielbergian production — we find as many lulls in the story as we do frobscottle-induced farts (excuse me, whizzpoppers) — but that’s merely the product of a director’s faithfulness to the source material. Spielberg otherwise hits every major note with an assured and playful touch, his knack for conjuring powerful feelings of wonder and awe giving this sweet summer diversion a personality all its own.

Indeed, The BFG is mostly a success in that it doesn’t create any new problems. It merely inherits those of its ancestor — namely, the aforementioned inconsistent and at-times sluggish pace and a few leaps of faith in logic in service of a narrative that just may well be Dahl’s strangest and most fanciful. Story concerns a young girl named Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) who is whisked away one night from Mrs. Clonkers’ Orphanage by a huge, hooded creature and to Giant Country, a wondrous place filled with beauty. Do I smell a Best Visual Effects nomination? I do, as a matter of fact: that sequence in Dream Country by the dream tree is simply mesmeric.

But Giant Country isn’t total paradise, it’s fraught with danger as well. The other giants among whom the BFG ekes out a quiet existence as a Dream Blower are much larger, meaner and they eat human beings (or, beans, rather). After learning she’s not leaving Giant Country anytime soon, Sophie encourages her big friendly giant to stand up for himself and to rid the land of these brutes, led by Jemaine Clement‘s Fleshlumpeater, once and for all. The pair seek the help of the Queen (Penelope Wilton) and her Royal Army back in the real world to do just that.

As is the case with a great many Dahl adaptations, the suspension of disbelief is a requisite and that ability serves viewers well here, especially as the fearless Sophie encourages the two worlds to collide. The performances anchoring the film are so good they allow us to overlook many a flawed concept. And there are more than a few. Spielberg’s potential new muse in Mark Rylance loses himself in the role as the titular giant and very well might have upstaged David Jason’s original voice performance that made the larger-than-life being an unforgettable creation. His spoonerisms and awkward turns of phrase were a highlight of that original as they are here as well, and once again it’s a joy watching ten-year-old Sophie trying to update and expand his childlike vocabulary.

Rylance doesn’t do it alone, though. He gets tremendous support from the young Barnhill who embraces Sophie’s wide-eyed curiosity about the strange world surrounding her with real gusto. She’s also brilliant at balancing the heartbreak of growing up without parents with a sense of maturity that makes her as well-rounded a character as you’re likely going to find with a child actor. All those years ago Sophie had already been made a strong character thanks to Amanda Root’s precociousness and intellectual curiosity, and those qualities are only bolstered by Barnhill’s live-action incarnation. Most importantly, the quasi-parental bond between the two isn’t lost in translation. The problem of loneliness is resolved with respect for Dahl’s affinity for the weird very much intact come the tear-jerking conclusion.

One of the challenges Spielberg is up against with his take on a Dahlian classic is finding an audience outside of those loyal readers and those who keep the 1989 made-for-British-television special close to their heart. The BFG is certifiably obscure material but perhaps with names attached like Spielberg and Rylance it can reach for broader audiences. This uplifting, sweet tale of bravery and dream-making certainly deserves them.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 7.45.12 PM

Recommendation: The BFG, as I have suspected since the announcement was first made, represents an ideal union of director and material. The world created by Roald Dahl is practically tailor-made for one of the world’s best when it comes to imaginative, inspiring filmmaking and the end product, while not perfect, is about as good as could be expected. The performances are wonderful and if you’re tired of the summer blockbuster trend, I have to recommend The BFG. Like, immediatarily. 

Rated: PG

Running Time: 117 mins.

Quoted: “Why did you take me?” / “Because I hears your lonely heart, ‘n all the secret whisperings of the world.” 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.joblo.com; http://www.imdb.com

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27 thoughts on “The BFG

        • Ah that’s cool! I’m glad too because The BFG just isn’t selling. I don’t get it, it’s such a touching, fun story. I also have a lot of time for Roald Dahl adaptations so maybe my passion for it is just blinding me to the fact that it isn’t that good? But you did like it too so that’s good. I can’t wait to buy it on DVD honestly

          • Me too, I can’t wait for the blu-ray, the colours were just so vivid, I can’t wait to see it on my new 4K telly. Its one of the best looking films I’ve ever seen, I can’t believe its not selling. As you probably know, this isn’t really my sorta thing but I loved it!

            I just posted about it, would love to hear your thoughts given you’re a big fan of Dahl. I haven’t read any of his stuff! Maybe when I was a kid but I don’t remember

  1. Oh yay! I’m so glad this is a good one, I had high hopes, thought it looked lovely from trailers and your review has just reinforced that 🙂

    Maybe in your next review you could talk in Dahlian tongue the entire time?! 🙂

    • Em’s you gotta see this thing. It’s a really lovely story and so wonderfully acted by Rylance. That guy deserves a hug.

  2. Pingback: Top That: Ten directors whose next films I can’t wait to see | digitalshortbread

    • I know, right? He is one of the most trusted of all the movie makers out there and his magical touch serves this story perfectly. Too bad it hasn’t managed once again to translate too well into big American box office receipts (there is the original movie, a TV version made for British television, but obviously that didn’t really ever make a splash here either). I think there’s too good a movie here for it to be bombing at the B.O. like it is

  3. I gave this a passing review, mostly for Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill’s performances. Together they are sweet and strike the right tone. The visual effect of the giant doesn’t look real, but it does feel magical. But what can you say about a movie whose narrative thrust for the majority of the production is, “Let’s just hang out.” It’s a curious film. I have to give Spielberg points for not giving a damn about plot. Children’s movie are usually so driven go by the mantra “let’s keep giving them stuff”. Alice Through the Looking Glass is a prime example and that was a mess.

    The BFG is much much better, but it still seems kind of sluggish for about 90 minutes. Then the ending happened which I quite enjoyed.

    • Yeah the issue with Spielberg’s film is that it is so faithful it inherits the problems of its predecessor. There are quite a few long stretches where not much happens of consequence in the 1989 Daniel Cosgrove version, although I can’t remember much of the book (or if I’ve even read it actually). I basically entrusted Spielberg to this material knowing how he has a flare for making wondrous, magical films. That’s why I enjoyed it so much, its just something special to me. Mostly thanks to Roald Dahl’s brilliant imagination 🙂

      • Funny you should mention the obscure 1989 animated made-for-British-TV version. I actually watched it the very next day after seeing the Spielberg film. It’s only 90 minutes long so it just flies by. Much better pacing. I kind of liked the music too.

        • I admit I haven’t seen Cosgrove’s version since first watching it for my TBT segment last year (I think?) So this good to hear the older one flows better. This one definitely had lulls. I think what really did it for me here was Rylance, he was just so fun.

          In response to your comment on your blog, yeah I was quite surprised when I walked in on my showing Thurs night and found three other people in there. I think there ended up being a total of 20. I don’t doubt more people went to Tarzan 😉

    • It’s something I’ve had my eye on since the word was first announced. I don’t think it was much later than this time last year honestly. The BFG came about quickly. I loved the original and I love most things Roald Dahl (as Kahlid said in his comment on here, he has authored a few autobiographical accounts which I have yet to read), so naturally I was going to be inclined to loving this. And it delivers pretty much what i expected. Give it a try and see what you think. It’s certainly not going to be the worst thing you’ll come across.

  4. I don’t know about this one man. Can’t say it particularly excites me. There’s just something about Spielberg that just doesn’t click with me when he does family and children friendly movies.

    • Ah, that’s a shame. I really found this to be quite good! Admittedly I don’t usually go for children/family-oriented stuff myself but a Roald Dahl adaptation is something else.

      • I actually love some of Roald Dahl’s work but it’s actually more autobiographical than fictional. He wrote two books about his life called Boy and Going Solo which I thought were absolutely wonderful and I liked them more than any of his other fictional work.

        • A great heads-up. I hadn’t been aware of any stuff outside of his fictional work. I’d like to read both of those!

  5. You can always count on Spielberg to deliver something great, and I’m glad to hear that’s the case with this one too!

    • Dude, I’m telling you. Spielberg is ridiculously reliable! Loved Bridge of Spies from last year, and I have to say this always looked good the moment the word came out that he had an interest in adapting it. There are some shaky parts, but the original movie version also had a lot of slow and shaky moments too. Fantastic movie, this was

      • Glad to hear that! I also dug Bridge of Spies quite a bit so I’ll definitely be giving this one a shot, especially because you liked it so much!

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