Urban Cinefile
"…fifty below zero and nothing but beer and cheese! So you're like drunk and constipated, and freezing your rear off… "  -Billy Bob Thornton on shooting A Simple Plan
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



SYNOPSIS: A girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Review by Louise Keller:
It is the relationship between a little girl with a big imagination and a gentle giant that captivates us in Steven Spielberg's delightful film, The BFG. We are transported into a magical world in which Sophie (Ruby Barnhill, excellent) is transported to Giant Country; scooped up from her bed by the giant who catches dreams and listens to children's hearts. Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Melissa Mathison's screenplay concentrates on establishing the characters and their relationships as we become entrenched into fantastic realities.

He might be digital, but it is easy to believe in Mark Rylance's gangly, stooped giant with the hooked nose and big ears. He talks a little squiggly and has some funny habits, including drinking the curious green frobscottle with its downward effervescence, prompting an amusing and explosive result. But it is through the innocent eyes of the outspoken 10 year old orphan girl who has never had a best friend, that the magic is created. Remember Sebastian in The Neverending Story and trials and tribulations in his journey to Fantasia? It is with a similar personal connection that we join Sophie on her adventures with the BFG. The film is utterly charming.

When we first meet Sophie, she is reading Nicholas Nickleby under her blanket in the orphanage in the dead of night. Apart from the ginger cat, she is the only one awake at 3am - the 'Witching Hour'. That is when she spies the BFG through the window. After being transported to Giant Country, the establishment of the BFG's home is effectively made: a cave under a waterfall with a stone door, crooked windows and a rough rocking chair. The proportions are nicely handled. We quickly discover that the BFG (as Sophie calls him) is the only friendly giant around. The nine troll-like 'bean-eating' giants (as in human 'beans') are twice his size, twice as ugly and extremely nasty. Much is made of the BFG's diet, which comprises of snozzcumbers (oversized gooey, spiky cucumbers).

Part of the BFC's charm is the unique language he speaks, in which the giant muddles up expressions and creates flowery, nonsensical versions of everyday words. But it is all about the all-important cementing of the relationship between Sophie and the giant. One of my favourite scenes is the one when Sophie follows the giant as he jumps into the reflection of a beautiful tree, around which coloured fireflies swarm. This is in the context of the BFG's daily routine of chasing dreams. This is a wonderland as rich as the one Alice explores and as Sophie wanders through the misty setting, it looks as though she is part of an ethereal ballet set among the clouds.

The unexpected change in reality with the introduction of the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton), her corgis and royal pageantry is a wonderful surprise and these scenes are filled with surprises and humour. Size is the issue as the BFG enters Buckingham Palace for an audience and breakfast is a hoot as giant quantities of eggs and toast are served. The first half is a little long and the film would benefit by a few nips and tucks, but overall, everything works. There is definitely magic afoot - small and tall - and recommended to audiences of all heights.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Big Fart Giant .... er, sorry, The Big Friendly Giant, whose fizzy green drink makes everyone including the Queen fart enormously, is a child friendly story from a master of that genre, Roald Dahl, whose story is given cinematic life by another master storyteller for kids, Steven Spielberg. At the Australian premiere, despite having to wait patiently through a half-hour delay, the kids and adults in the audience were rapt and engaged throughout. But especially in the fart scene at Buckingham Palace, of course. The corgis fart, too, by the way.

One could spin all sorts of messages into and onto this story, but for its target audience the top layer is what counts. Here is a giant who doesn't eat kids, like his bigger, more awful peers. No, he makes dreams, the equivalent of spells made by good wizards or witches, whose potency is demonstrated in the resolution. Dreams defeat evil. Main Message delivered. (The first and best message, in my view, is never assume anything about anyone, including giants ...)

The combined talents of cast and crew make for a resonant, rich, multi layered film where the magic (effects) serves to deliver the story that a book usually creates in the mind of the reader.

There is magic, too, in the outstanding performance of young Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, the orphan plucked - literally - from orphanage to Giant Land. The plucker is the BFG, in a memorable performance by Mark Rylance which transcends the interloping of motion capture to deliver a wonderfully nuanced, complex and heart warming characterisation.

It's worth noting that while the setting of the orphanage is quite Victorian and the dusty but propellant picture on the wall in BFG's hideout is of Queen Victoria, the monarch who we meet - and who calls Nancy at the Reagan White House - is Penelope Wilton's very current Queen Elizabeth (in her younger years, of course, when Nancy was indeed at the White House). This is adroit licence taking and I applaud its bravura and its ambition to make the film relevant to those kids and their parents who are trooping to see the film - especially in this the Queen's 90th birthday year.

Technically flawless, The BFG is a fantasy, but Roald Dahl didn't make a name for himself by being insipid.

Published December 8, 2016

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2016)

CAST: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, Matt Frewer, Penelope Wilton, Olafur Olafsson, Rafe Spall, Adam Godley,

PRODUCER: Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

SCRIPT: Melissa Mathieson (novel by Roald Dahl)


EDITOR: Michael Kahn

MUSIC: John Williams


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes





DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 7 2016

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021