Geeky Parent Guide: The Big, Friendly World of Roald Dahl

The value of exploring one’s imagination never seems lost with children. As we get older, books, television shows, and movies allow us to dive into stories, become fully immersed, and forget everything else – a medium to maintain our own sense of wonder. After watching it for the first time recently, The BFG (2016) allowed this geeky parent to remember some of my favorite stories as a kid – from none other than Roald Dahl.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, this film explores the life of Sophie, who stays up every night looking after the orphanage she lives in, and making sure the other orphans are safe. Late one night, well into the three o’clock hour, she sees it for the first time - a glimpse of something she couldn’t have possibly seen. It’s then when this thing, whatever it is, notices her gaze from the distance. It’s at this moment she realizes it must be her imagination, and hiding under the covers in her bed is the only solution. This classic method of protection is completely relatable, whether remembering moments like this as a child or seeing our own children do the same thing. Unfortunately for Sophie, the large arm of a giant reaches through the window and swipes the entire blanket from the bed, with her in it.

The visual effects, particularly following the scene where the giant takes Sophie, are wonderful to see. To avoid completely describing the subsequent scenes and spoiling it for others, it is safe to say that the creators of this film did a magnificent job displaying the giant’s skill at hiding himself from the view of others in a large city. It doesn’t even allow the thought of “How’d he do that?” – because you get completely lost in that moment and nothing else matters, except to see what he’ll do next.

The BFG, originally a story published by Dahl (1982), recaptures the imagination from those pages with odd phrases and a mysterious land of giants, including a special place where the only friendly giant captures dreams. These colorful, firework-like dreams are caught with a butterfly net, and it’s a beautiful reminder that dreaming, and imagination, can be as wondrous as we remembered as young children.

As for critics, the “Tomatometer” over at Rotten Tomatoes gives The BFG a score of 75%. To help parents determine whether they’d want their child to watch this film, here’s what they say – “Critics Consensus: The BFG minimizes the darker elements of Roald Dahl’s classic in favor of a resolutely good-natured, visually stunning, and largely successful family friendly adventure.”

It is worth noting that it only received a score of 57% for an “Audience Score,” which indicates “the percentage of users who have rated this movie 3.5 stars or higher.” The Tomatometer is the professional scale for “the percentage of Approved Tomatometer Critics who have given this movie a positive review.”

If you’re looking to compare this film to other Dahl classics, let’s take a look at other films from the legendary creator and how they were rated.

The Witches (1990)
Tomatometer: 100%
Audience Score: 70%
Critics Consensus: With a deliciously wicked performance from Anjelica Huston and imaginative puppetry by Jim Henson’s creature shop, Nicolas Roeg’s dark and witty movie captures the spirit of Roald Dahl’s writing like few other adaptations.”

Matilda (1996)
Tomatometer: 90%
Audience Score: 72%
Critics Consensus: Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book’s spirit.”

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Tomatometer: 90%
Audience Score: 86%
Critics Consensus: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is strange, yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don’t always work but express the film’s uniqueness.”

Special note on these percentages: The BFG has had more critics (Tomatometer) review this film; however, more users (Audience Score) have rated each of the other films.

There are plenty of ways to introduce the world of Roald Dahl to your children. The website provides a list of Dahl’s stories, a description of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre “aimed at 6 to 12 year olds,” and many activities under their “Create and Learn” section, including an online game, reading lists, writing tips, “revolting recipes,” as well as content for teachers.

Although Roald Dahl Day has already passed (September 13), teachers and parents can still go online to download a copy of printable activities from the Party Pack, with “everything you need to host a marvelous party.” The pack includes a word search, crossword puzzle, craft designs, fun quizzes, and even a section on how to “make your own volcanic eruption.”  (If you want more ideas like the volcano, check out a previous article on the Geeky Parent Guide).

If you are looking to explore your love of Roald Dahl even more, you can personalize My Golden Ticket: A Journey into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Through Wonderbly, “in collaboration with Roald Dahl,” anyone can have their name stamped inside this book and become part of the story, as “they’ll explore wondrous new rooms and uncover their own delicious secrets.” Although the listed age range is from 5 to 12 years, it’s safe to say this would be a perfect gift for anyone young at heart.

Have you seen The BFG, and did you enjoy it? How did it live up to your expectations from reading the story when you were younger? Is The BFG your favorite Roald Dahl story? If not, which one makes the top of your list? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to head over to our Twitter and Facebook pages to chat with other fans. As for this geeky parent, The Witches was my favorite Dahl story as a kid, and the creepy witches in the movie still hold up today.

Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.

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