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  BFG, The The Trouble With GiantsBuy this film here.
Year: 1989
Director: Brian Cosgrove
Stars: David Jason, Amanda Root, Angela Thorne, Ballard Berkeley, Michael Knowles, Don Henderson, Mollie Sugden, Frank Thornton, Myfanwy Talog, Jimmy Hibbert
Genre: Animated, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: One night, little Sophie (voiced by Amanda Root) woke up in the dorm of the girls' orphanage she stayed in because she saw an owl land outside. As she went over to the window, pausing to slip on her shoes, the governess Miss Clonkers heard the floorboards creak and she yelled at Sophie to get back into bed, but the child was intrigued, tiptoeing over to see what had spooked the bird. She couldn't make it out at first, but the more she looked the more she made out the form of a huge cloaked figure standing in the street - and it was getting closer.

Roald Dahl may have been one of the most famous children's authors to ever put pen to paper, but when it came to making films of his work, he was notoriously unhappy with them, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory coming in for particular ire. With the Cosgrove Hall version of his novel The BFG on the other hand, he was delighted at what the celebrated British animation studio had created, and after its debut on television as a Christmas Day treat it became a favourite of many, with home taped videos of the broadcast the ideal sort of thing to keep the kiddies quiet for ninety minutes.

Looking back on it, it may not be utterly definitive as a rendition of Dahl's vivid imagery, as the illustrations of Quentin Blake were hard to shake as what the author's stories were truly meant to look like, but given that some differences were inevitable from page to screen, director Brian Cosgrove was fairly faithful to Blake's realisations without being exact copies. The demands of the different media were part of the reason for that, but it was evident they had a bit more money to spend here than what they had on the average episode of Dangermouse, while remaining recognisably of the legendary studio's canon, with its deceptively simple appeal to all ages, though The BFG was pitched more exclusively younger.

What happens to Sophie (a character based, as is now well-known, on Sophie Dahl, Roald's granddaughter) is that she is spirited away by the giant of the title to his land in the clouds which he shares with nine other decidedly mean (and bigger) ogres. The BFG is essentially the kindly father figure the girl always wanted, and as it's been established the orphanage is not the place where she's happiest, this magical new friend is her perfect companion, though there's a way she can help him as well, as the rest of the plot unfolds to tell us. As he's bullied by the other, bigger, uglier giants, he really needs to get even, and furthermore the ogres are eating children out of their beds in the middle of the night.

So something must be done, and Sophie thinks she knows who can help: Queen Elizabeth II (Angela Thorne), leading to a visit which curiously parallels the break in to the Queen's bedroom by Michael Fagan the same year the book was published. Sophie gets more out of Her Majesty than he did, however, and they draw up a plan to foil the evil giants once and for all. The film is best in its more fantastical sequences, where Sophie and The BFG float around a dreamscape collecting reveries to bring to the sleeping children - and the odd nightmare as well, useful for the denouement. Still, that oddly remote mood to the style works against the cosiness aimed for, and it could have been if they played up the grotesquerie, rather than the quaintness, of the source they might have hit on a more successful tone. That said, if you're little then it won't make much difference: you'll be scared by the ogres and find the friendship between The BFG and Sophie as enchanting as intended. Music by Keith Hopwood and Malcolm Rowe (which includes two songs, one comic based on farting, one a ballad not based on farting).

[The Fremantle Blu-ray of The BFG looks as good as it ever did, possibly better, and has an interview with Cosgrove and short features on songs and the restoration as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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