The BFG – Review (*** 1/2)

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Woeful box office performance be-damned, The BFG is another delightful winner from Steven Spielberg, a return to the gleefully entertaining family fare he’s been avoiding lately, free of treacly sentiment but at the same time sweet, fun and, of course, visually stunning.

Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel, The BFG revolves around a young British orphan, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), who encounters a giant she comes to refer to as, yes, the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Ryalance). Much to her surprise, the big guy doesn’t want to eat her, even if many of his fellow giants would certainly like to.

Spielberg and Dahl are a heavenly match as far as storytelling sensibilities go, and unsurprisingly the end result is for the most part exemplary. It may not be on the pacier side for a film aimed at children – even adults may feel the 117-minute run-time during the occasional narrative lull – but that the titular creation appears in almost every scene, brought to life by jaw-dropping state-of-the-art visual effects, makes it easy to get invested and stay that way.

Still, what would these visual tricks be without a beating heart? It falls to Rylance, who won an Oscar earlier this year for his work on Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, to bring the BFG (both the movie and the character) to life, with his thoroughly charming rendition shining through thanks to frequently amazing performance capture work.

That’s not to ignore the work of Barnhill, who delivers a forthright, easily likable Sophie, and could very well have a significant future in the industry. Furthermore, Jemaine Clement is terrific as the film’s antagonistic giant leader, and other choice parts are simply too delicious to spoil for anyone who possibly hasn’t read the source material.

Though this may end up being a black sheep to bean-counting executives, at least the end-product cannot be snatched away or undone; it is a towering monument to both the power of modern filmmaking tech and the zeal of a director who continues to impress at a time where he could easily just play it safe. The BFG won’t please everyone, but it’s a wondrously-wrought big screen love letter to Dahl with an infectious sense of joy and heart.

*** 1/2

The BFG is in cinemas now

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