TBT: The B.F.G. (Big Friendly Giant) (1989)

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Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and now here we are, at the end of Roald Dahl month on TBT. I hope you all have enjoyed going through these posts as much as I have in creating them. I have to confess, when we entered the new year I had absolutely no game plan for January. But that actually happens with most months. 😀 I wanted to start off this year with a more well-defined series of throwbacks. Then I thought about all the Roald Dahl books I had read as a child, and all the films I had watched that were adapted from his work. Of course some escaped me. Throwback Thursday has helped me explore more of his world and has introduced me to some wonderful motion pictures at the same time, and with any luck I’ve helped some of you do the same. Now, we close out the month with one of the more obscure entries, but a solid one nonetheless. 

Today’s food for thought: The B.F.G. (Big Friendly Giant)

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Release: Christmas Day 1989

[Netflix]

Although this is arguably one of the strangest and most obscure of all the Roald Dahl big screen translations, The B.F.G. is undoubtedly Dahl through-and-through. Though this might be the first time some have ever heard of it, this touching adventure could be one of the more heartwarming pieces he had to offer.

A lonely orphan named Sophie (voiced by Amanda Root) is suddenly snatched from her bed in the terrible confines of the Clonkers Home for Girls by a mysterious giant figure late at night. It takes her far away from this place and to seemingly another world, where other giants apparently exist, ones that are not quite as nice and friendly as this one. She is stolen away to the giant’s little nook in the side of a mountain, where he introduces himself as The Big Friendly Giant. He explains that not only is he different from the rest because he’s pleasant, but that he has no intention of eating humans like the others. Thank goodness for that.

The two become fast friends. Being the inquisitive little girl that she is, Sophie wants to know what he was doing in her town late that night. As it turns out, the B.F.G. is a dream-weaver of sorts, as his job is to catch dreams in a spectacular place known as Dream Country and then to travel back to our world and blow them into the imaginations of sleeping children all throughout the night using a trumpet-like device. He bottles the dreams and stores them in his home until he decides where he’s going to take each one. Sophie is at first reluctant to believe that this is real, until the B.F.G. takes her there himself.

It’s not long, however, before one of the evil giants senses that there is a human in the area. This being a Roald Dahl adaptation, these beasts have some really odd names: there’s the Butcher Boy, the Fleshlumpeater, the Manhugger, the Childchewer, the Meatdripper, the Gizzardgulper, the Maidmasher, the Bloodbottler and, of course, who can forget the Bonecruncher. It is he, the Bonecruncher, who stumbles upon the B.F.G.’s lair one night and trashes his place in his search for this child but the friendly giant insists there’s no one there and that he is just talking to himself.

The thing with beasts, you see, is that they like to sleep all day and scour the land by night, looking for children to gorge themselves on. The B.F.G. wants nothing to do with them, and actively avoids going near them. With the help of this young girl, maybe the B.F.G. can become brave enough to find a way to rid the land permanently of these vicious creatures. Indeed, that is just what they do together.

When one trip back to Sophie’s home town finds the two in danger yet again since the Bonecruncher has found a way to follow them, the B.F.G. realizes that they might not ever be out of danger. He feels awful for putting Sophie in harm’s way. Returning to the land of giants, they form a plan that will involve the Queen, her Royal Air Force and a few acts of courage to rid this world of danger.

The B.F.G. has unfortunately slipped through the cracks compared to other productions based off of the renowned author’s scribblings. That’s strange considering the popularity of Dahl’s book. The novel’s 1981 release ensured a loyal following had already formed behind it (this book was his eleventh). However, that’s not to say the picture lacks in its passion for showing that there are indeed good people in this world. The B.F.G. represents the good adult role model wayward children so desperately need in their lives, and thanks to David Jason’s wonderful voiceover work, the film indeed offers that.

Scenes like the one in which the B.F.G. introduces Sophie to what he calls frobscottle — a strange drink in which the carbonation bubbles drift to the bottom, rather than up to the top, causing the person to fart (or ‘whizpop’) rather than burp — proof that this film is decidedly more for the benefit of children rather than adults; all the same, it’s an enchanting adventure that will often take you by surprise.

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3-0Recommendation: The B.F.G. is definitely worth the searching through Netflix’s immense collection, and should you choose it, be prepared for a great deal of silliness and perhaps even more strangeness. Reiterating, the younger viewers will benefit more from this quirky little animation and the film doesn’t quite hold the classic appeal of some of Dahl’s more popular adaptations, yet the journey is still a great deal of fun and I wish I had gotten to it sooner. At least I have now.

Rated: G

Running Time: 88 mins.

Quoted: “Meanings is not important. I cannot be right all the time. Quite often I is left instead of right.”

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

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.mubi.com

TBT: Matilda (1996)

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Throwback Thursday is here once again, offering up only the most nostalgic trips back in time as possible. This week is certainly no different. We go back to a time and place where children were best seen and not heard from; where it was alright for their parents to be downright nasty to them (even despite one of them being almost shorter than their six-year-old); a time when learning was a privilege and not a right. (That actually doesn’t make any sense, I just needed another sentence in there to make this paragraph longer.) But what does make sense is that this TBT is what I would consider as yet another classic film, and not just because it’s a great book adaptation, either. 

Today’s food for thought: Matilda

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Release: August 2, 1996

[VHS]

Beware, the Trunchbull.

Danny DeVito’s fourth feature film as a director is uncompromising in its refusal to be just another lighthearted children’s movie. This was no young adult adaptation nor even a dark comedy, but rather a film based upon the children’s book of the same name in which a brave young girl learns to use her gifted imagination to overcome the oppression that’s perpetually hurled at her.

The deception is what powers this particular movie; the maturity of the thematic elements is still to this day almost shocking. Unlike other big-screen conversions like Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach and The B.F.G., Matilda (and to a lesser degree Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) was an adaptation that truly took advantage of the dark, drab atmospheres that Dahl so famously immersed his young readers in. This was due in part to the live-action screenplay and the fact that a man of DeVito’s stature helmed the project.

Matilda (Mara Wilson) was a special girl whose home life was an absolute nightmare. This child epitomized the concept of having an active imagination. In fact, she had telekinetic powers that would prove to be both problematic and liberating. At home with her disgusting parents (DeVito and Rhea Perlman), Matilda often found herself bullied because of her inclination to read. When she’s forced into attending school at Crunchem Hall — a place that with the passage of time seems to only resemble more of a prison barrack than an educational institution — Matilda found friends in a few students and in particular, the kind-hearted Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz). However, she also discovered her great enemy in the terrible Miss Agatha Trunchbull (an intimidating performance from Pam Ferris that has left me scarred to this very day). The Trunch enjoyed terrorizing students, and was quite effective in keeping the Hall under her thumb. That is until she came across the strange but brilliant Matilda Wormwood.

Dahl’s imagination apparently knew no bounds. He invented The Chokey for chrissake. And those who have watched this film/read the book understand what that horrible contraption was all about. The punishment for disobedience in this particular setting was severe, and here came this young girl willing to defy the odds just for the sake of seeking justice. Justice, in Dahl’s eyes here, being the right to be treated fairly, like any other normal kid at the time would be treated.

But Matilda found herself a target of the evil Trunchbull and victimized by her awful parents at every turn — until one day, enough was enough. One of the beautiful things about this decidedly bleak affair was getting to see the confidence building up in this little girl and seeing where she could most effectively apply her telekinetic energy. There’s no doubt that if there was one thing DeVito got right about his adaptation, it was this uncanny ability of Matilda to outwit her adult opponents. The cat-and-mouse chase through Trunch’s house one afternoon serves as a highlight.

But that’s not all DeVito nailed with his film. As a director, he managed to effect the tone almost perfectly. The book was no light read, just as the film doesn’t pretend to beautify the world. The performances he extracts from his cast are effective in the extreme, particularly those of Ferris and Wilson. DeVito turns in fine work as Matilda’s sketchy car dealer Harry, and Davidtz is wonderful as the shining light, the sole person to truly care for Matilda.

The film is set in appropriately depressing environs, with the Hall and the Wormwood home coloring in the black-and-white impressions we gained from Dahl’s writing, not to mention a handful of other story elements as well.

At the end of the day, Matilda is a wonderful movie that offers up charm and danger in equal doses, and its thematic elements still bear significance nearly twenty years on. As a child this can often be abrasive viewing, but watching this now is more likely to cause chuckles at the sheer overwrought nastiness in characters like the Trunchbull and Harry Wormwood. Therein lies the genius in the Roald Dahl school of thought.

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4-0Recommendation: Matilda is a remarkably mature read for six-to-ten-year-olds (it might be argued its just as good of a read now as it was then) and the film doesn’t abandon the notion. It’s not the nicest Dahl adaptation you’ll find, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a classic. It has its flaws, but those who grew up loving Roald Dahl should have already seen Matilda so many times on VHS that the tape no longer plays properly in the cassette.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 102 mins.

Quoted: “They’re all mistakes, children! Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.”

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

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