On-screen rapport between Rylance and Barnhill galvanises Dahl classic adaptation
THE BFG (PG)
The final collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison, director and screenwriter of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, is a gloriumptious rendering of Roald Dahl's fantasy, peppered with the author's gobblefunk lexicon of jumbly words.
'Quite often, I is left instead of right,' comments the title character to explain his muddled vocabulary, which rechristens two animals hippodumplings and jiggyraffes.
Sweetness and childish wonder glister in every frame, including a towering motion capture performance from Mark Rylance as the eponymous hulk, who blows bottled dreams into bedrooms using his phizz-whizzing metal trumpet.
On-screen rapport between the Oscar-winning actor and young co-star Ruby Barnhill galvanizes the picture, building to a rousing crescendo at Buckingham Palace, where a swig of frobscottle, the BFG's effervescent green brew, induces rip-roaring bouts of whizzpopping that prove you can't beat a well-delivered fart gag.
The heroine is a precocious orphan called Sophie (Barnhill), who is snatched from her bed at the witching hour by a hooded 24-feet tall figure.
The behemoth spirits the girl over verdant valleys and crashing seas to the rolling landscapes of Giant Country.
'No such place.' Sophie defiantly informs her host, who introduces himself as the Big Friendly Giant (Rylance).
The BFG wouldn't normally kidnap a chiddler, but he explains that he was fearful Sophie might cause a great rumpledumpus by yodelling the news that she had seen a giant.
'No one would listen to me,' she pleads, 'I'm an untrustworthy child.'
A tender and deeply touching friendship is forged between Sophie and her kind-hearted abductor, who exists on a diet of disgusterous snozzcumbers and is bullied by filthsome fellow giants including Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement), Bloodbottler (Bill Hader), Maidmasher (Olafur Darri Olafsson) and Manhugger (Adam Godley).
In order to rid Giant Country of these man-gobblers, Sophie hatches a hare-brained scheme to visit the Queen (Penelope Wilton) at Buckingham Palace.
The BFG joins her on this madcap quest, and his presence smacks the gobs of the assembled staff including the Queen's dutiful maid Mary (Rebecca Hall) and head butler Mr Tibbs (Rafe Spall).
Directed with verve by Spielberg, The BFG is a visually arresting ride that gently tugs heartstrings in between rollicking set pieces.
The child-napping unfolds from Sophie's perspective, cocooned within her blanket, and a visit to the tree of dreams dazzles the senses, especially in 3D.
Rylance's digitally conjured character has a twinkle of believability in his eyes, and Cheshire-born Barnhill is a suitably spunky and spirited heroine in the midst of the eye-popping mayhem.
Some of the darker elements of Dahl's source text have been excised entirely - the noise of crunching bones doesn't crackety-clack for miles around - so young audiences won't endure sleepless nights after the end credits roll.