Travel consideration provided by Disney; all opinions are my own.
Disney’s newest film, The BFG, releases in theaters nationwide today, but should you pack up the family and pay full price for this screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book? It depends on if you’re expecting a film that stays true to the original story. If you are, you might be disappointed, though there’s enough of Dahl’s book to make it recognizable. For those who’ve never read the 80’s children’s classic, the film’s story stands on its own and you’ll likely love it as I did.
The BFG Movie Review: Magical Lands Await
The film itself is beautiful. The dark streets of London are rich in color and details. The landscape is both ordinary and scary as the light changes in response to The BFGs movements throughout the city. He makes his way to children’s windows where he blows dreams into their heads as they sleep (which itself is a bit unsettling).
The BFG transitions us from the streets of London to Giant Country, which in comparison looks like a junkyard filled with abandoned objects. Among the rubbish are nine giants of all sizes and shapes with one thing in common; they eat human beans. This penchant for people sets them apart from the BFG who is much smaller and gentler and who refuses to consume another living creature.
When the BFG retreats to his home, we find a space filled with the fascinating objects he’s collected on his journeys, but it’s his hidden dream room, protected by the one thing his giant foes fear – water – that is alive with color and wonder.
The BFG’s prized dream collection is filled with soft and loving spheres of color which create the perfect dream that’s he’s trapped in the Dream Country. But in this magical land, there are also bad dreams, which are beautiful in their own way. These angry red dreams are the stuff that nightmares are made of.
While the Land of Dreams and The BFG’s dream jar room are pure perfection in their magical softness, the Queen’s palace is appropriately perfect and regal. The rooms are a fantastic contrast of crisp precision to the lands the BFG roams.
While the Queen’s palace is light and colorful, the orphanage is dark with falling shadows. Even so, the orphanage comes off quaint with its vast and roomy interior, polished wood floors, toys, and a wooden dollhouse where a girl can dream of having her own family some today. It’s not until we move into the orphan’s dorm room that we finally get the feeling that it’s a loathsome place to live.
The BFG Movie Review: What Are the Differences Between the Book and Film?
The late Melissa Mathison, who previously wrote the script for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial took many liberties with Dahl’s story. The most noticeable variance is the film’s ending which has little similarity to Dahl’s version. She did, however, not only leave in the grade-school bodily function humor, she amplified and exaggerated it which sadly is always good for a loud guffaw from the audience. I can’t help but hope someday this kind of potty humor goes out of style. To it, she added the requisite groin shot to round out the crass, childish humor.
But straying from the original work is nothing new for Dahl stories which have made their way to the big screen. It’s said that he hated every adaptation including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which while a film classic in its own right was also liberally adapted from the original story. But the Dahl family approved this adaptation and were kept informed of changes along the way. They’re said to be very happy with the resulting film.
That includes the apparent modernization of the character Mary, moving her from an “oldish person” who is stout and easily excitable and who works as the Queen’s maid to someone resembling a confident business woman working as her personal assistant. While it could be seen as a step forward for women, one could also argue that the original Mary could have been nurturing toward Sophie as well. But in changing Mary to a beautiful young woman, they were able to create a marriage between her and Mr. Tibbs, the Queen’s Butler and hint that Sophie has finally found her family.
The BFG Movie Review: A Nice Film with a Heartwarming Message
Perhaps that the problem with Spielberg’s newest movie, it’s too nice. While Dahl’s book was dark and scary, the Disney film touches ever so lightly on the subject and instead concentrates on do-good aspects of the story as Sophie and the Giant team up to rid the land of the human guzzling giants. But this niceness is exactly why I loved this movie. Having seen it twice already, I appreciate the positive spin Spielberg and Mathison put on it. As a child, I liked the oddity of some of Dahl’s works, but for me, many of them went too far. Disney managed to make this giant go from frightening to friendly with just a glance, and he never strays too far into the darkness that we fear him – he’s quite likable, and it’s easy to see why Sophie adores him. The same can be said of the rest of the Giants too, they come off as bumbling fools and not people-eating giants to fear.
The film does stall a bit once we journey to the Queen for help, and then it wraps up much too quickly and easily. But it’s not simple to put such a big story into a film, so it’s understandable that sacrifices had to be made. But the relationship between the orphan Sophie and the Giant made the film wholly satisfying and yes, feel good, a description that’s not often attached to a Dahl project.
Quite honestly, there are so many differences that purists will spend much of the movie trying to figure them all out. I suggest watching the film knowing that the bare bones are there from Dahl’s story and in Spielberg and Mathison’s hands it’s a new story that’s not better or worse, it’s just different. So yes, take the family and enjoy this film, it’s a fantastic mix of Disney, Spielberg, and Dahl.
The BFG Film