The BFG 

 

Half

 

 

Steven Spielberg adapts Roald Dahl’s immortal children’s story into a rather ponderous 

fable in which the brilliant motion-capture effects still fail to justify the 117-minute running 

time.

 

BFG, The

   

Roald Dahl’s immortal literary creation of 1982 is one with a very big heart and very little plot. Of course, it would be foolhardy to invest the sort of money needed to provide the appropriate CGI for a short, but Melissa Mathison’s script is too slender a thing to justify a feature-length film.

 

Even so, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation is one of considerable strengths. There is magic to be found in this tale of an insomniac young orphan, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), who fears that there may be giants and is duly snatched by one in the middle of the night. And even though the latter is dubbed ‘Runt’ by the considerably larger occupants of Giant Country, Sophie decides to call him the BFG – short for ‘Big Friendly Giant’. But he is none too friendly, either – at least until he has come to accept that Sophie, who he feared would expose him, is a sympathetic captive. A more suitable moniker might have been the Little Gentle Giant.

 

Based on the original illustrations of Quentin Blake, the BFG has been superbly rendered by the motion capture department, with the addition of the benevolent facial features of Mark Rylance. Rylance, who won an Oscar for Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, is a perfect match for Dahl’s malapropian behemoth, bringing a bucolic sensitivity to the role. Defending his abduction of Sophie, the giant tells her, “I didn’t steal you very much. You’re only a little thing.” And admits, “What I says and what I means is sometimes two different things.”

 

For a while one believes that we might be able to spend an entire film with this mismatched duo, but Mathison’s narrative padding eventually wears thin. There are other ogres, to be sure – all out for Sophie’s blood – but even the sequences featuring these intruders feel over-extended. The final act provides bit of a breather, but sits uneasily with the beginning of the film, which promised a more traditional Barrie-esque fable.

 

In an age of ADHD, younger audiences are likely to be bored by the longueurs, while the painterly special effects can no longer be relied on to enthral. But Dahl’s linguistic acrobatics continue to engage and Mark Rylance is a joy – all the way from his outsize feet up to his twinkly eyes.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader.

 

Dir Steven Spielberg, Pro Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer, Assoc Pro Melissa Mathison, Screenplay Melissa Mathison, Ph Janusz Kamiński, Pro Des Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg, Ed Michael Kahn, Music John Williams, Costumes Joanna Johnston.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Amblin Entertainment1/Reliance Entertainment/Walden Media/The Kennedy/Marshall Company-Entertainment One.

117 mins. USA/UK/Canada. 2016. Rel: 22 July 2016. Cert. PG.