Film review: The BFG – irreverent take on Roald Dahl’s children’s classic
Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance shines in Steven Spielberg’s tongue-in-cheek take on this giant tale by a master of children’s stories - so irreverent it features a flatulent Queen Elizabeth II
It was only a matter of time before Steven Spielberg got to Roald Dahl. The filmmaker and the author are almost perfect complements for each other, both understanding the loneliness that childhood can bring. And so it seems fitting that Spielberg should take on Dahl’s 1982 book about an orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and the giant humanoid – or Big Friendly Giant, as she nicknames him – that steals her away to his remote land.
Adapted by the late Melissa Mathison – Spielberg’s screenwriter on E.T. – the result sees the director at his most irreverent, seemingly influenced by Dahl’s mischievous delight in childish humour. This may be the first – and only – time that Queen Elizabeth II (played by Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton) is depicted with a flatulence problem, after drinking one of the BFG’s gunky potions.
With Sophie whisked away to a land where other, less friendly giants are looking to feast on her, the film really takes flight thanks to Mark Rylance, the British actor who won an Oscar for Spielberg’s last film, Bridge of Spies . Playing the BFG, via motion capture technology, Rylance inhabits the giant with real humanity and warmth, his own soul shining through the digital makeover.
There are sluggish parts, like the dream-catching sequence and the lumbering squabbles with fellow giants. The depiction of Britain is also entirely distorted, a hodge-podge of anachronistic references. But with a cast that includes Rebecca Hall and Jemaine Clement, such trifles cease to matter as The BFG plants its hefty footprint right over this summer’s cinemas.
The BFG opens on August 11
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