I remember the first time I read the BFG as a child of seven or eight while in the back of my grandparents’ car on our way to Wales for a holiday. I was frequently travel-sick when young, especially when reading in the car, but refused to put the book down. I think I’d finished it before the end of the second day of the holiday, and then just started reading it again. I’ve got similar memories for many of Roald Dahl’s books (like lining up to buy Matilda on its release day, or refusing to read his final book, The Minpins, because I’d never get to read another new book of his again), but The BFG was always my favorite.

So I approached Disney’s new film adaptation of The BFG with some trepidation. Knowing that it was directed by Steven Spielberg, responsible for many other good childhood memories, gave me some hope. Fortunately, it turned out to be well founded: The BFG is a wonderful film.

The story centers on Sophie, a young orphan girl snatched from her bed in the middle of the night by a giant, and taken back to his home in Giant Country. Luckily for Sophie, the giant turned out to be the only one of his species who doesn’t eat “human beans”, unlike Childchewer, Gizzardgulper, Bonecruncher, and the other gruesomely-named titans. Together, the BFG and Sophie formulate a plan to stop the man-eating monsters from stealing children from their beds once and for all.

In such a brief description, it doesn’t sound like a particularly suitable story for younger children, but both Dahl and Spielberg understand that kids love things that are scary and gross, and that these low-impact frights make for the most memorable stories. Both auteurs are also masters of their medium, and the combination of the two produces something magical. Watching The BFG, I felt the sense of wonder and joy that I remember from childhood, from reading The Witches or watching E.T.

The look of the film is perfect. The animation team at Disney somehow managed to capture Quentin Blake’s original art from the novel in one of the most believable CGI characters I’ve ever seen. The world design is fantastic, both in its depictions of unreal lands and its timeless version of London, a blend of cobbled streets, ‘60s cars, and modern technology.

The plot of the film stays true to the book, and much of the best dialogue is Dahl’s original words, performed excellently by Mark Rylance. He skips through dialogue about snozzcumbers, whizzpoppers, and crockadowndillies like it was second nature. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill does an admirable job as Sophie, the audience’s perspective on the world, appearing in every scene of the film. Spielberg has a knack of getting the best performances from young actors, and that talent is clearly on display here. And the always-likable Penelope Wilton confirmed that she would indeed be perfect as queen.

The BFG was the best kind of nostalgia for me: my favorite childhood novel adapted with the same feel as the ‘80s family films I grew up with. The sense of wonder that The BFG inspired in me as a child seems to hold true for the newest generation, too. I watched the film in a cinema packed with children of all ages, some as young as four or five, and it was near silent for the whole runtime. Except for the bit where the queen does a whizzpopper; I challenge even the most fart-joke averse to keep a straight face through that scene.

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