The BFG review: An instant children’s classic, full of charm and wonder
Film review: The BFG

Matthew Turner casts his critical eye over Steven Spielberg's big-screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG, starring Mark Rylance

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Fantasy adventure in which a young orphaned girl is carried away to a magical land by a big friendly giant

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
Country: USA
Release date: July 22, 2016
Cert: PG
Running time: 117 mins

Steven Spielberg re-teams with Oscar-winning Bridge Of Spies actor Mark Rylance for this CGI-enhanced adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s classic.

It’s the second time the story has been brought to the screen, following Brian Cosgrove’s 1989 animated version, and the screenplay is the final script by E.T. writer¬†Melissa Mathison, who died in November last year.

As with the animated version, Spielberg’s B.F.G. is pleasingly faithful to Dahl’s original story, and the result is an instant children’s classic, full of charm and wonder.

Warmth and humanity

In an anachronistic but 1980s-leaning London, young Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) is snatched from her orphanage bed by a big, friendly giant (Rylance), who whisks her off to his home in Giant Country and teaches her all about the art of dream-catching.

However, Sophie discovers that the BFG is actually a relatively small giant who is routinely bullied by much bigger, fiercer, human-eaters such as Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jermaine Clement), so she devises a plan to help him defeat them.

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Rylance is perfectly cast as the BFG and he brings a palpable level of warmth and humanity to the part, aided by some lovingly conceived character design and state-of-the-art motion-capture work.

Barhhill is equally good, investing Sophie with a stubbornness and determination that makes her much closer to a typical Dahl heroine than the standard Hollywood cute moppet. She also has a great array of comedy head-in-hand reactions that come in very handy in the final act.

Child-like wonder

Spielberg’s magical touch is assured throughout, evoking child-like wonder in scenes like the dream-catching expedition and orchestrating a number of brilliantly staged, utterly charming sequences such as the BFG hiding in plain sight as he moves through the streets of London.

Similarly, the script shares Dahl’s delight in the BFG’s nonsense language, with its talk of ‘human beans’, the ‘tellytelly bunkum box’ and so on.

Admittedly, the pacing flags slightly in the middle section, where pretty much nothing happens for about twenty minutes. But it recovers for a truly fabulous finale involving the Queen, a spot of (very) high tea and what is perhaps one of the greatest fart gags ever committed to celluloid.

If you can suppress a laugh at the sight of flatulent Corgis shooting across the Palace floor after sampling the BFG’s fabled Frobscottle, you are made of stern stuff indeed.

Worth seeing?

Combining state-of-the-art effects work, a timeless, heartfelt script and a pair of winning central performances, this is a treat for both adults and children alike.

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