They’d be locking me up in a cage to be looked at with all the squiggling, you know, hippo dumplings, crocodown dillies and giggirafs, and then there would be a gigantus looksy giant hunt for all of the boys.
I don’t care if you are nine years old or 102 if you aren’t enchanted by watching Mark Rylance work his way through sentences like the one above then you are dead inside. If there were nothing else to The BFG than Rylance’s take on The BFG’s unique way with words – many of which are taken wholesale from the book – then it would probably have been enough. Thankfully, there is more than that.
You probably all know the tale but for those who missed Dahl’s unique magic growing up here we go. The BFG begins when an orphan named Sophie is snatched from her bedroom window by a giant and whisked off to Giant Country. There, thankfully for her, she discovers her particular kidnapper is The Big Friendly Giant, who at only 20 odd foot is the runt of the litter. Unfortunately, he isn’t the only giant and seeing as the others have names like Fleshlumpeater you can probably guess that they aren’t quite as friendly.
As I’ve already hinted at Rylance is extraordinary as The BFG. The motion captured performance doesn’t hinder him at all, and the character loses none of his charms. In fact, by the end, you would be quite happy for him to come and snatch you out of your bed at night. Perhaps more impressive, however, is Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, who spends the film playing across from this motion capture equipment. She easily navigates away from the annoying child character and instead gets across the idea of a headstrong little girl caught in a world that is a lot scarier than she is willing to admit.
And what a world it is. The film is at its best when it gets into Giant Country, and that’s where Spielberg’s particular blend of magic comes to the fore. The BFG’s house is a thing of wonder, and there are times where you don’t know where to look. It’s a film that will benefit from DVD where you can pause it and pick up all the little details you missed first time round.
All of this is great, but those familiar with Dahl will be questioning whether his trademark darkness is there. Well, it is, but maybe not as much as some might crave. The rather iconic scene where The BFG describes how the various human’s of the world taste is gone and these giants appear to focus their devouring on the UK. On the flipside, a small child left the screening I was in in tears within the first half hour, terrified by the larger giants. So while this is the Spielberg version of the story, it is a line they trod well. What can be read in a book is often more threatening on the screen and they realise that. But this is by no means a sanitised version of the story.
The BFG made me happy. From The BFG to Sophie to the world that they live in it was all people and places that I wanted to spend time with. Is it perfect? No. It is probably twenty minutes too long, and the middle does get a bit baggy, but it’s a forgivable offence and in the whole Melissa Mathison’s final screenplay lives up to her legacy. It’s a gorgeous film that you will want to see on the biggest screen you can find, definitely not one to wait for on the telly bunkum box.