Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"The wide-eyed young girl Sophie, who possesses a wisdom and bravura beyond her years, is beautifully caught by newcomer Ruby Barnhill." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

With a child at its core The BFG (or Big Friendly Giant) has many resonances with Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T. but some how does not muster quite the same magic.

The director immerses himself in Roald Dahl’s amazing world of lumbering Neanderthals who hunt down humans and eat them and the little girl who is snatched from her orphanage by one of them. Fortunately he is vegetarian, half the size of the others and kindly disposed to ensuring the wellbeing of his new companion. He takes her because she glimpsed him during a nocturnal wandering around London – and humans thinking giants exist would spell their end.

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Written by the late Melissa Mathison, who was also responsible for E.T., the adaptation spends too much time at the start among the giants. When they pick up the girl’s scent they try to track her down, leading to some frantic escapades in the BFG’s lair in the mountains, but much of this section is overly repetitive.

Recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance (for Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies), with more than a little help from the design departments and special effects, makes an appealing creation with his grey hair and protruding ears and colourful language of made-up words, in a role originally destined for Robin Williams.

The wide-eyed young girl Sophie, who possesses a wisdom and bravura beyond her years, is beautifully caught by newcomer Ruby Barnhill.

If the scenes in the mountains begin to drag slightly, the pace picks up a treat when the action moves to Buckingham Palace when Sophie goees to seek Royal help to rid the world of the evil giants.

Penelope Wilton (from Downton Abbey) is in her element as the Monarch, taking it all in her stride and helpfully putting a call through to Nancy and Ronnie in the White House to ask for assistance (giving a precise clue to the timeframe of the 1980s).

There is much hilarity to be had from flatulence caused by the BFG’s favourite green coloured tipple with bubbles that go down rather than up, afflicting not only the Queen but her corgis, footman and the heads of the armed forces.

The pace is further heightened when a helicopter offensive takes to the air, swoops over the land of the giants and lays into the lumbering forms slumbering below.

Spielberg demonstrates just how powerfully he believes in the potency of dreams – and our ability as humans to ensure flights of imagination when the whim takes us. And cinema’s burgeoning technology gives him completely free rein.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2016
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The BFG packshot
A little girl befriends a giant.
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Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Melissa Mathison, Christopher Abbott, based on the novel by Roald Dahl

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Mark Rylance, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, Matt Frewer, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Penelope Wilton, Adam Godley, Ruby Barnhill, Michael Adamthwaite, Julia Torrance, Haig Sutherland, Marilyn Norry, Callum Seagram Airlie, John Emmet Tracy

Year: 2016

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: UK, Canada, US


Cannes 2016

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