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‘The BFG’ review: The children’s book is reborn in movie with giant heart

A scene from Disney's 'The BFG.'. Disney

It’s fascinating how children’s books from the ’80s differ from more modern kid lit. The BFG, as an example, has an underlying darkness and despair that you don’t often read in the pages of books your kids read.

Sure, book franchises like Harry Potter have deaths and creepy mysteries, but the subtle implication that The BFG‘s eight-year-old orphan Sophie is aching with loneliness and that’s what triggered the BFG to come find her is just… very sad. That shadowy component of The BFG book transfers to the film, which, despite beautiful special effects and a touching relationship between the BFG and Sophie, is a more cerebral, scary venture than your typical kid’s movie.

I fondly recall reading Roald Dahl’s 1982 book multiple times with aplomb as a child, and I carried none of the more intense moments with me into adulthood. The ferocity of the giants who want to kill and eat Sophie never quite translated as a real threat from the page, but it does from the screen.

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Is this movie too scary for my children?
Worry not, parents, unless your child is particularly sensitive. The inference going into the film is that the main giant who interacts with Sophie is her friend, hence Big Friendly Giant, so even when he first plucks her from her bed in the orphanage, there’s no fear that he’s actually going to eat her. His large pals provide a little bit of tension, though they never get too close to our young hero. They’re essentially buffoons and are easily outwitted by smart Sophie, so she consistently has the upper hand.

What’s the vibe of the film?
This is not your typical kids’ summer movie. It has no asinine characters for laughs, doesn’t rely on a clichéd story, and puts off an intelligent vibe throughout. This isn’t Minions, that’s for sure. It really is like a perfect amalgamation of director Steven Spielberg, Disney and Dahl: great storytelling all around, with enough visual magic to keep both kids and adults engaged. There’s an unexplainable pleasure watching the BFG run alongside trees and seeing them sway from his force, or witnessing him doing his “work,” dream catching and giving.

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Despite its fantastical plotline (which at one point has the Queen of England farting), The BFG film is serious business. This is a tale about two very lonely souls finding solace in one another, even though they couldn’t possibly be more different.

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WATCH: The BFG trailer
Click to play video: 'Movie Trailer: The BFG'
Movie Trailer: The BFG

How does it look?
Stunning. The technology used to create the giants’ faces is astonishing and completely seamless. They may as well be real people, that’s how realistic it looks. There are lovely sequences too, like whenever BFG is running or trying to conceal himself in the London cityscape. Two notable moments in the film, when BFG first grabs Sophie and absconds with her to Giant’s Land, and a glorious eating scene with the Queen in Buckingham Palace, stand out for the sheer enjoyment they bring. Who doesn’t want to watch a giant eat a human meal for the first time?

Is it better than the book?
I wouldn’t say it’s better, but it definitely has a lot of charm. Usually you can’t beat the book, and this is another example of that. But Disney, Spielberg and co. did a fantastic job bringing the story to life.

So, what’s the bottom line?
The BFG is weirdly refreshing when it comes to kids’ movies. So often nowadays, children are pandered to, catered to, and things are laid out in front of them. This film reaches back into the past (yes, the ’80s were 30+ years ago) and resurrects a sensibility all too absent in modern film. Your kids will come out of the theatre loving the BFG, and I’m willing to bet that you will, too.

‘The BFG’ opens in theatres on Canada Day (July 1, 2016).

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