“The BFG” a Computer-Generated Adventure for Children
By Skip Sheffield
“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men,” declared British writer Roald Dahl. Dahl’s most famous children’s book is “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” aka Willy Wonka. Dahl wrote the original story for “The BFG” (Big, Friendly Giant).
At 6-foot-6, Dahl was a bit of a giant himself, but he was always fond of children and despised big bullies.
The child hero of “The BFG” is a 10-year-old orphan girl named Sophie (wide-eyed Ruby Barnhill). Dahl also had a fondness and compassion for orphans.
Steven Spielberg has returned to direct “The BFG,” which has a screenplay by the late Melissa Mathison, who created magic writing “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” also directed by Spielberg.
“The BFG” does not have the enchanting, sentimental quality of “E.T.,” but it is a rousing adventure for children, with eye-popping special effects that will have you believing giants do exist.
The friendly giant of the title is played by distinguished British stage actor Mark Rylance. Rylance is made to appear 24 feet tall, with an elongated neck and enormous Dumbo-like ears that move independently.
One evening around the witching hour of 3 a.m. in a London orphanage, little Sophie gazes out a window, unable to sleep. The BFG appears at the window and plucks out Sophie and puts her in his traveling bag.
In giant strides it doesn’t take long to let to the Land of Giants, which appears to be an island off England. Sophie is initially frightened, but soon she warms to the BFG, who is the nicest, most peace-loving and smallest of a race of violent giants with names like Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jermaine Clement). The BFG speaks in an almost incomprehensible gobbledegook, but you get his meaning. He wants to protect Sophie from the bad guys.
“The BFG” is set in no particular time. The cars in London are of 1960s vintage. Later Sophie will clear the dust from a portrait of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. When Sophie decides she must go with the BFG to warn the Queen of England about the nasty, child-eating giants, the Queen is clearly modeled on current monarch Elizabeth II, down to her Corgi dogs. The Queen, played by Penelope Wilton, in no way resembles Elizabeth II, nor does she act like her.
“The BFG” would have been impossible without current state-of-the-art computer-generated imagery. When Dahl wrote the story, children had their own imagery in their brains to imagine what the giants looked like. I can’t say seeing them represented literally is an improvement. “The BFG” is best appreciated by children who seek a wild adventure with no questions asked.