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 giant-sized budget.
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 movie magic.
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....|