Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall and Bill Hader
Release Date: 22 July
A young orphan girl named Sophie is abducted by a huge elderly giant after she catches sight of him one night. Lucky for her, he isn’t like the other giants, who steal children from their beds to eat them. He’s big, but also friendly…
There is a very strong argument to be made for Steven Spielberg as, if not the best director, then certainly the most consistently great filmmaker of all time.
Thirty two films as a director (and counting; he has three more projects over the next three years, in various stages of production), with very few mis-steps, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull notwithstanding.
In a career well into its sixth decade, his ratio of classics to mediocre films is great, which is even more impressive considering how prolific he has been over the years.
All that being said, when you take only his films for a younger audience into account, his record seems slightly less admirable. Sure, E.T. is an inarguable classic, and he was involved with An American Tail, a youthful favourite of mine.
But then you have the aforementioned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is objectively poor, no matter how you look at it. Hook is quite ‘love it or leave it’ (I personally love it myself).
And The Adventures of Tintin was impressive, but it was no classic, and it certainly wasn’t half the success it could, and probably should, have been.
So where does his most recent effort sit? How good is his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s magical children’s book, ‘The BFG’?
Well, it’s lovely.
Lovely is the only real word to describe it, though Dahl’s own words ‘whoopsy wiffling’ suit it just as well.
There is a sense of wonder and magic present here that all great kid’s flicks have. Delights abound, mainly due to the titular BFG and his chosen occupation carrying the film through its two hours as though it were half that length.
Indeed, when the plot was wrapping up, I was shocked that the time spent in the cinema had absolutely flown by.
This is a problem in its own way though. For a film with so few main characters, not many stand out. Sophie and the BFG are great, with wonderful performances by both. This is made even more impressive considering the fact that Ruby Barnhill was a 10 year old girl at the time and that she had to interact with Mark Rylance who was confined to performance capture gear.
Rylance is especially excellent, rivalling Andy Serkis for one of the greatest motion capture performances of all time.
Similarly, Jermaine Clement is very convincing as the Fleshlumpeater, leader of the giants and a generally cruel, bullying imbecile. The rest of the giants, however, all blend together.
Research will tell you that Bill Hader plays the second-in-command giant, the Bloodbottler, but honestly, I would have a very hard time telling which one he was, as each of them is equally unremarkable from one another, in terms of both writing and performance.
Similarly, the characters introduced in the final act are all quite flat, used to move the plot along quickly and cleanly, and with a pinch of comic relief. Very effective comic relief, to be fair, especially towards the target audience, but considering one is very literally the Queen of England, it feels just a little too silly.
That is a nitpick though, because everything else is quite remarkable.
The visuals are simple but striking, with the occasional image being potentially iconic to the right child. It may not be revolutionary, but it is absolutely perfect for the tale being told, like Quentin Blake’s original illustrations being brought to life in front of our very eyes.
The script is faithful to Dahl’s story, relishing the use of nonsense words in the same way Dahl himself did. There’s a huge sense of fun with the language here, with phizz-whizzing and whoopsy-splunkers all jumblied right through.
The plot itself is actually a touch less dark than the original book. In fact, this might be the most warm-hearted film I’ve personally seen in years, with only the odd moment of sadness, panic or fear dotted throughout.
The score, while slightly too whimsical for my own tastes, and not as distinctive as the best work of John Williams, fits the mood and the magic on screen to a tee.
This seems to be the common trend: everything in the film matches with what the film is trying to accomplish, and is of a very high standard, without ever reaching a ‘classic’ status.
In the end, this is a good film, with a very good, strong heart at its centre. Those who remember the book will love it, and those with kids will laugh alongside them.
The BFG is enjoyable by anyone of any age, so long as they still have a sense of wonder and imagination.
Sure, it’s no E.T., but it is jumpsquiffling, gloriumptios good fun.
Written by Will Whitty