It’s Steven Spielberg. Doing Roald Dahl. If you’re a fan of the book it’s exactly what you were hoping for.
A tall order to adapt a story like The BFG, the project would be a daunting task for a lesser Director. Taking pride of place on many bookshelves (this author’s included), the much-loved story of orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) getting whisked away to giant land by her Big Friendly Giant, only to encounter even bigger, less-friendy giants, is known back to front by generations of readers.
A fiercely loyal adaptation, there are only a handful of instances where the film differs from the book, usually diverging only ever so slightly from the source material to add something just as special to the mix. An open confrontation between the BFG and his more aggressive counterparts (Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement, amongst others) is enlivened by the less-than-expected use of cars, one containing Sophie, as a pair of roller-skates, while Sophie’s introduction to her friend’s dream-netting boasts the wondrous magic habitually oozing from the book.
All the most memorable sequences in the novel are thrillingly brought to life – from the BFG’s galumphing through northern England to his awkwardly staged dinner with the Royals, Sophie being stuck in a snozzcumber is not the only occasion where Spielberg has drawn vivid inspiration directly from Dahl’s text. The introduction to the BFG in a London alleyway, so well evoking the larger-than-life imagery in the novel, will send chills down the spine of any Dahl fan as you catch the first glimpse of the hero, to which the inordinately talented Mark Rylance does deft justice, shining through his character’s layers of CGI.
Spielberg’s adaptation is quintessentially and in every sense British. Taking place in a disparate political context, decades after its publication and at a distinctly different time for the British Monarchy, Spielberg tackles the novel’s impermeable celebration of everything Buckingham Palace head on, revelling in the novel’s royal fanfare and not afraid to have a bit of fun at the expense of the ever-present stiff sense of decorum.
Adult gags scattered throughout the film might flit under the eyes of dutiful parents, for as much as the live-adaptation embraces classic affection for Dahl’s work, this is very much for the kids. With the film’s infectious sense of adventure pervading the entire picture, Spielberg’s take on The BFG is reliable, effervescent fun.
The BFG screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival – for tickets head to the Festival website