The BFG enjoyed its world premiere at the glitzy Cannes Film Festival last weekend – and the first reviews are in. Is Steven Spielberg's latest another family classic to match the likes of E.T. and Jurassic Park? And does he do justice to Roald Dahl's classic novel?
If any one aspect of the movie has gathered praise, it's Mark Rylance's performance as the BFG himself, reviewers praising his warmth and expressiveness through layers of CGI motion capture effects.
"What a tremendous performance from Mark Rylance," raves Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. "A lesser actor would have gone in for brow-knitting grumpiness, sub-Shrek rage, coy shyness and giggling. But Rylance plays the BFG like a real human character, like an abused child grown to an alienated old age, taking refuge in a world of his own, but more than capable of love. There is a marvellous delicacy to the way he picks up Sophie’s tiny glasses with his enormous pudgy fingers."
Jo-Ann Titmarsh in HeyUGuys agrees: "His own sparkly-eyed face is morphed into that of the BFG’s, with the addition of a large hooter and giant ears. He fits so perfectly into this role physically that it is hard to distinguish between Rylance and those Quentin Blake drawings. But it’s his voice which really holds the film together. It evokes the sad sweetness of the BFG, who is a sort of idiot savant, lonely and forlorn before befriending Sophie."
Many critics praise Spielberg and late co-writer Melissa Mathison (who wrote E.T.) for sticking true to the endearing whimsy of Dahl's original story, even if its darker aspects have been toned down somewhat.
"As the film plays, the technology itself just melts away," writes Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. "You’re watching a girl and a giant explore a landscape of astonishments – and while the note-perfect script, written by the late Melissa Mathison... treats Dahl’s words with radiant respect, it also subtly reworks them to make the story cinematic to its soul. With its velvety, butter-icing colours, spiritual sensitivity to geography and landscape, and swirls of romantic mysticism, The BFG feels very much like Spielberg’s Powell and Pressburger film – it’s a picture that could have only been made now, but feels rooted in the past."
Writing for Variety, Peter DeBruge says the movie captures the essence of Dahl's writing as adeptly as the BFG himself captures children's dreams.
"That’s the beauty of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, as brought to life by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance: You believe," DeBruge enthuses. "No matter how fantastical the tale (and it gets pretty out-there at points), this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic 'human beans' once relied upon Disney to deliver."
Even so not everyone is won over by the movie, Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter arguing that it's perhaps overly simplistic in its tone: "Dahl’s source material seems an almost too-perfect fit for the director in that it centers on a child, in this case Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), whose only solace in her orphanage-bound life is reading. Unlike in E.T., which was also written by the late Mathison, the obviousness of the new film’s concerns are not accompanied by other characters or interests, leaving everything out on the surface. This is a movie devoid of layers and subtext."
Well, that's what the critics have said – and because we're so good to you, it's now time to feast your eyes on the new BFG trailer and judge for yourselves whether this is set to become the next Steven Spielberg classic. Here it is – watch in awe.