Classic Intel: The BFG (1989) - Online Review

'Jason is a perfect fit for the humour and emotion needed to satisfyingly make the BFG the unforgettable character he is'.

When choosing their favourite Roald Dahl film adaptation, most people will almost certainly opt for 1971's Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, and it's not hard to see why. Whilst deviating from Dahl's novel at several points, the film successfully brings to life the two key elements of what makes the source material so popular: genuinely memorable characters, and an imaginative and intriguing plot. Cosgrove Hall's animated version of The BFG highlights just how important both of those elements are through its relative successes and shortcomings in adapting Dahl's 20th Century fairytale.

In comparison to both Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and other Dahl works that have been adapted into films such as The Witches and Matilda, the plot of The BFG is fairly basic, relying on the author's wonderfully realised characters to make it such a memorable read. In turning the story into a feature-length animation, director Brian Cosgrove does little to redress this imbalance, resulting in the film feeling somewhat aimless beyond the opening act. The ideas are enjoyable, but too often feel disconnected from one another.

Cosgrove also doesn't make the most of the fantastical elements of the story: the sequence involving the BFG (David Jason) catching and bottling dreams with Sophie (Amanda Root) should be a vibrant highlight, but unfortunately ends up as one of the more underwhelming elements set to a forgettable late '80s ballad. It's a shame, because the film gets its artistic detail just right elsewhere. Both the BFG's intricately carved wooden salt and pepper shakers, and his elaborate system of tubes and bottles to make Frobscottle, his drink of choice, are delightful examples of how well crafted Giant Country is at times within the film.

It's in Cosgrove Hall's realisation of Dahl's characters that The BFG most consistently shines. The man-eating giants are satisfyingly unpleasant, with the Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater (both voiced by Don Henderson) being particularly repulsive and unsettling creations. The minor characters are also memorable, with the Heads of the Army and the Air Force showcasing two great vocal turns from British sitcom veterans Ballard Berkeley and Michael Knowles.

Just as he should be, however, the Big Friendly Giant himself is the star of the show, marrying wonderful character design with Jason's flawless voice to bring the character to glorious life on screen. A superb character actor and a Cosgrove Hall mainstay, having provided voices for the title characters of both Danger Mouse and Count Duckula on British TV throughout the '80s and '90s, Jason is a perfect fit for the humour and emotion needed to satisfyingly make the BFG the unforgettable character he is.

The BFG is currently playing on Amazon Instant Video.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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