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There are few films that have caused as much anticipation in our home like The BFG. Our ten-year-old daughter who loves the Roald Dahl classic has been following the media to know all she can about this production. To have Steven Spielberg helming the film adaption of her favorite book made the excitement around the release even more palpable. So, what will be the review of this fan of the giant tale?
To those that are not familiar with the storyline, Roald Dahl’ story focusses on ten-year-old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and her unexpected friendship with the Big Friendly Giant (Academy-Award winner Mark Rylance). This orphan is whisked away to the land of giants and finds herself cared for by the gentle and charming BFG. As their friendship grows, Sophie comes to realise that the BFG has a magical role in the lives of human’s dreams and she begins to enjoy her role of catching these dreams alongside her enormous friend. In the process of building their familial connection, Sophie unwittingly catches the attention of Bloodbottler (Bill Hader), Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) and the other giants in the land who have less than savoury intentions for her and the rest of humanity. She and the BFG must devise a plan to convince the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) to help thwart these evil plans and bring about peace in the land of humans and giants.
The advancements in computer generated imagery have finally caught up with the visionary styles of film makers like Steven Spielberg. He is able to put forward an ambitious effort in helping audiences to visualise this imaginative book. The visual development of the story is the defining moment of this film and is captivating throughout the adventure. The Big Friendly Giant is given the nuances of character and size that provide the believability within this absurd world developed of Roald Dahl. The magical visuals are balanced with the miniature human element that is convincingly portrayed by Ruby Barnhill. Her performance was reminiscent of the acting prowess of Neel Sethi in The Jungle Book from earlier in the year. Both of these young actors rise to the challenge of acting within a computer generated world and prove they have the needed skills to support these iconic stories. Spielberg manages to capture the visual element of The BFG which is critical to support the characters and establish this fantasy world.
Even amongst these great effects, something is missing, The BFG fails to rise above the ordinary. In the realm of children’s films this one does not manage to connect with all ages. It can be said that much of the film is reliant on a thorough knowledge of the original story, which works well for fans of Dahl’s classic. Those avid readers of the book will enjoy the subtleties of the film, but those who do not have this knowledge will be lost for a good portion of the film. Something that would have helped to connect the audience to the characters would have been an effective use of humor. This is a glaring component that is missing in Spielberg’s film compared to many of his other creations. Most of the funnier elements fall flat and do not connect with the adult audience members. Feeling a bit lost and with few laughs along the way, there is a hope that during this giant’s tale that there would be closure, but this hope is dashed and a satisfactory conclusion never quite arrives.
Steven Spielberg has worked hard to build a marvellous world for Sophie and the BFG in which to reside, but he leaves it without the needed heart to deliver a great film. Fans of the book will walk away satisfied, but it will be less than satisfying for those who are new to Dahl’s story. The recommendation for anyone going along to this film would be to read the book with your children, grandchildren or friends and then get along to the visual spectacle that is The BFG.