The BFG is the adaptation,
directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Disney, of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s
book. It tells the story of Sophie, an orphan bookworm who is whisked away to
Giant Country by the titular Big Friendly Giant, a sweet-natured 25-foot
curmudgeon who distributes dreams to the sleeping populace of London.
Spielberg, Dahl, Disney. Giants, orphans, dreams. Theoretically,
a combination of these elements should produce a children’s film of enough
eye-popping wonder to force Pixar into liquidation.
Spielberg’s direction should provide the sense of scale and
wonder and the expert manipulation of feeling. Dahl’s material should provide
the inventiveness and the grotesqueness. Both should provide their genius
ability to see life from a child’s perspective. Disney should provide the
In the case of The BFG,
only Disney delivers. It’s not enough, except perhaps financially: 140 million
dollars can buy a lot of flashy special effects, but it can’t buy children’s
Spielberg is a long-time purveyor of such magic, but he’s also
increasingly susceptible to the temptations of computer-generated effects. The BFG is too much like his other
recent CGI extravaganza, Tintin; its
characters careen around like waxy inflatables, bouncing off each other
harmlessly. There’s little sense of peril. At least the shark in Jaws had some tangible, real-world heft.
It doesn’t help that too much scariness has been cut out of
the story. Millennials will remember a scene from the 1989 animated BFG in which a sleeping boy is plucked
out of his window and devoured by a baddie giant. It traumatised us, sure, but
it also thrilled us, and it made the film both exciting and memorable. In
Spielberg’s version, the Fleshlumpeater eats not one lump of flesh. Despite
being voiced brilliantly by comedian Jermaine Clement, it’s unlikely the
character will be stealing into the dreams of the film’s target audience.
There’s plenty that’s admirable, with the best moments
provided by the late Melissa Mathison’s script. When the BFG tells Sophie that
he can hear caterpillars arguing about which one will make the prettiest
butterfly, or sagely notes that dreams are ‘quick on the outside’ but ‘long on
the inside’, the film captures something of Dahl’s own magic. There are almost
enough of these nice moments to make up for the lack of nasty ones.
But if you want a Spielberg classic, don’t BFG – BFI.
|What||The BFG film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
22 Jul 16 – 31 Oct 16, Times vary
|Website||Click here for more information....|