There’s a lot to love about this Steven Spielberg Directed adaptation of the Roald Dahl book. From its beautiful CGI, two excellent leads and a scene so laugh out loud funny that it may go down as one of the funniest of 2016, this is one of the best family friendly films of the year.
However, I can’t say that I love it. I don’t dislike any of it, but it didn’t quite wow me. I just feel like it wasn’t quite for me and it dragged a bit in some places.
Yet, The BFG has a real warmth and charm to it that is so often missing from family films these days. It takes a real auteur like Spielberg to nail the real sense of wonder and magic that was needed for this adaptation and it’s a quality that he has stood away from in the past few years.
It’s a perfect fit for a Director who has spent a while delving into American history, here taking a break to do something silly and joyful, bringing back memories of his more family-friendly favourites.
Bringing from his work on Bridge of Spies, Spielberg adds Mark Rylance to his ranks of multi-film collaborations, this time employing him as the gentle, Big Friendly Giant.
Rylance has a blast, giving the bizarre language the right emphasis and realism to make it funny and sad in equal measure. An assured performance that makes The Giant a sympathetic hero to root for and proves to be fairly definitive in the process.
Alongside him, in the role of young orphan Sophie, is Ruby Barnhill, playing the same sort of star-making role that gave Drew Barrymore her big break in ET. And one that sparks with the charm of well beyond her year’s talent that will rocket her to a surely great career.
From the opening scene as we watch Sophie walk the corridors of a creaking and creepy Orphanage, the witching hour casting beams of blue light over the floorboards, this is a film that is as much influenced by Spielbergian sensibilities than anything.
There’s beautiful scenery of night-time London, all cobbled streets and little pubs, it’s a bunch of cliches but it’s the sort of London you wish were truer. Then Sophie witnesses a skulking BFG and is whisked away across the countryside and into Giant Country.
Despite the initial rush of the Big Friendly Giant bounding across the Britain, once the film settles down in his little cottage, the film loses some of its charms. Despite the sheer beauty of some of the CGI, there are occasionally creaky moments with Sophie and BFG in the same shot and it takes a while before anything actually happens.
We are introduced to the other, child eating, giants who are the film’s villains and BFG takes Sophie to the land of dreams in a scene that will look better on the biggest screen you can find.
Yet, for me, the film has little urgency and only sparks again in the third act as Sophie and The BFG go back to London to get help from The Queen (Penelope Wilton) to take out the evil giants.
Thankfully this leads to an excellent scene as Sophie and The BFG have some breakfast with The Queen, using Large clocks to prop up the large table and shovels are used as spoons so he can scoff down a vast quantity of eggs and toast.
The stand-out moment is when The BFG gives some of his special ‘Frobscottle’ to the residents of Buckingham Palace and because of the bubbles that go down, everyone succumbs to violent flatulence. In the classiest fart scene of the year, the audience and I couldn’t contain our laughter.
The scene is so broad yet so universally silly that it makes the sight of farting Corgies funnier than anything that calls itself a comedy this year. This is where Spielberg really nails it and as in ET, there’s always room for some silly humour when the film is as indebted to the mysticism of childhood as this is.
After that, the film wraps up nicely with a very simple and neat climax and thankfully not too much in the way of CGI spectacle. Yet nothing matches the humour of the Whizpopping scene nor the beauty of those early, moon-dappled moments
It’s a simple family friendly film with enough awe and wonder to make it something of a firm favourite in millions of DVD shelves. Despite my misgivings about it, there’s a real earnest joy to the film and though the John Williams score is at times so much like Harry Potter It’s hard to move past it, I felt the match was, yet again, made in Heaven.
Spielberg is the hardest working and most interesting filmmakers out there and this is no exception.
Extra point – This was written by the late Melissa Mathison, writer of ET and it’s a great bookend to a fantastic career.