Last summer, I picked up a copy of Roald Dahl’s The BFG at the library on the recommendation of a friend. I read it out loud to my son over the course of two weeks. He really enjoyed it and I only mildly panicked at some of the seemingly gruesome nature of the story. (Spoiler alert: giants snatch up children in the night and EAT them!)
So of course, when we received the invite to the press screening of the new Disney version of The BFG (directed by Steven Spielberg – ahem!), we both jumped on it. My five year old daughter desperatly wanted to come, but I just knew it would be too scary for her and I wasn’t too keen on the potential bad dreams it was sure to invoke.
Turns out, she probably would have been okay with it. The mind is a powerful thing, and the way Steven Spielberg and his team made the giants come to life was much less terrifying than what I’d imagined in my head while reading the book.
The film tells the story of Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old orphan from London, who is taken to Giant Country by the mysterious BFG (Big Friendly Giant) after she spots him late at night outside her orphanage. Having both been on their own in the world up until now, their affection for one another quickly grows. But Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all.
I found the film to be delightful, even though it leaves out much of the depth the novel contained. It’s probably for the best, as it allows the audience to simply enjoy the film without being thrown off by a lot of social commentary. I did find myself wanting a bit more as the movie ended. I expected a big, climactic scene that invoked all sorts of emotion, but instead, it went out with a bit of a whimper.
Mark Rylance, who plays The BFG, creates a character that will be loved for ages to come. The special effects and lighting in each scene brings to life a gentle soul whose every movement makes you feel something – each laugh, each dart of the eyes, each utterance of his funny words like scrumdiddlyumptious and phizzwizards.
My favorite scene was when the BFG and Sophie were in Dream Country. The digital effects (there is probably a more technical word but I’m just a layman) were quite lovely and found me holding my breath on several occasions.
Mr A. thoroughly enjoyed it as well. He thought it was funny and loved that it told about magical dreams, both good ones and nightmares. His favorite scene involved a bit of bathroom humor and had our audience in stitches. I won’t give more details as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else, but let’s just say that a lot of people drink a fizzy drink called frobscottle, where the bubbles go down instead of up.
He and I both agreed that although some five year olds could probably handle the movie, we recommend it to kids six and up. The movie made him “happy and excited” and when I asked if he was ever nervous or scared, he looked at me like I was an idiot. But we’ve read the book, so he knew how everything was going to turn out. If you haven’t read the book with your child, I could see them potentially being nervous or scared at certain points in the film.
The movie acknowledges death several times. Sophie bluntly tells the BFG her parents are dead and it is a known fact that giants take kids from their homes and eat them (though it is never shown). If you have children who are anxious about Mom & Dad not always being around, I would exercise caution on seeing this movie. My son isn’t bothered by things like this and most of the subtleties go right over his head, but I know some children are exceptionally perceptive and can read into the nuances of a character’s emotion.
All in all, we both give the film two thumbs up. If your family is looking for an enjoyable activity on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the BFG is a fantastic choice.
The BFG is rated PG and has a runtime of one hour and 57 minutes.