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Review: The BFG – “As joyous as it is moving”

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the bfg

For many of us, The BFG is either a much beloved book from our childhood (thank you Roald Dahl!) or an animated film, again from our childhood – or both combined! So it was a little unsettling then when a new adaptation was announced. Of course, we calmed down pretty quickly when the powers that be announced who was involved… Steven Spielberg is directing – sounds good! Mark Rylance is the BFG – OK, this just got interesting. Penelope Wilton will play the Queen – where do I sign up?

The BFG is an epic adventure focusing on a young girl, Sophie, who – having witnessed a giant in the flesh – is taken to Giant Country by him for fear that she will tell everybody what she saw. Fortunately for her, the giant happens to be very friendly. But he’s not the only giant out there.

This new exciting take on Dahl’s classic tale begins with a darker tone than you might expect, given the superb silliness of the book. The first sight of the giant is actually quite scary and even when you realise that Sophie is (relatively) safe in the BFG’s very large hands, there is an innate sadness in her never being able to return to the world of humans. It’s too dangerous for her to venture outdoors for fear the other, far larger giants will gobble her up. And, simply put, that’s just no way to live!

So our tiny human bean starts to come up with a plan. And the more she sees of Giant Country and hears about what the other giants are up to, the more determined she becomes that something must be done – and she knows just the giant who can help her.

Even through the sadder and scarier parts of the story, there is the delumptious Dahl language to keep things just about light enough. The ‘snozzcumbers’, the ‘human beans’, they’re all there, each newly concocted word or phrase guaranteed to delight viewers. Throw this phenomenal language together with the imagination and vision of Spielberg and you’ve got a partnership almost as enchanting as Dahl and illustrator Quentin Blake. It’s a colourful, wondrous film that is sure to make many a wide-eyed viewer feel all warm and fuzzy throughout.

As the BFG, Rylance brings much of his own humble, sweet demeanour (check out what he had to say at The BFG press conference)  to the friendliest of giants and you feel both his pain and joy most acutely thanks to his incredibly expressive face. There are some beautiful little nuances throughout his performance. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill does a marvellous job, too, bringing to life the oh-so-precocious but oh-so-adorable orphan, Sophie.

All in all, The BFG is pure immersive escapism, a real treat for the senses. The effects used are done so with such care that you’ll soon forget you’re watching a film and want to jump right through the screen and go dream-catching with the giant man himself. This is a smile-inducing adventure, as joyous as it is moving and, after the slightly scary beginning, it leaps up to giant fun and silliness made all the more entertaining thanks to the likes of Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall all bringing their own sort of magic to the story, with not very much screen time.

And just in case the plain old English words above don’t enforce the point, let me just say that The BFG is a whizpopping adventure for all ages. So grab some frobscottle and a few of your favourite human beans and go and see it!

4-out-of-5

If you’re a fan of the book and are looking forward to seeing the film then you can join in the Book Vs Film Club discussion at @bookvsfilmclub

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