The BFG: Roald Dahl’s film adaptations at the box office | The Independent

Roald Dahl did not like his books to be adapted into films. In fact, the Cardiff-born writer didn’t even enjoy Gene Wilder’s role Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory, a film that still effortlessly puts smiles on the faces of families with every new viewing.

Since his passing in 1990, a wide range of directors – filmmakers bearing their own unique stamp – have taken Dahl’s beloved material and attempted to turn it into a hit: Nicolas Roeg, Henry Selick, Wes Anderson for n’ to name a few. Now it’s Steven Spielberg’s turn, whose version of The BFG is currently cowering in the shadow of the Pixar heavyweight Finding Dory and entertainment The secret life of pets at the US box office.

Which leads to the idea that Dahl may have been right; if Spielberg can’t do it, who can? While these new adaptations are all – in their irreverent ways – good films, their commercial reception has never really correlated, except for Tim Burton who shrewdly placed the man of the moment – freshly released Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean – as the lead of his film.

The works of many novelists have enjoyed their moment in the sun over the years (Stephen King, John Grisham, JK Rowling), but the majority of Dahl’s properties, in particular, have always been forced to slum upon release. We’re rating the story of these film adaptations from most successful to least successful.

Charlie and the chocolate factory – $475 million

Arguably the weakest of all Dahl’s adaptations, this 2005 attempt by Tim Burton was to succeed thanks to the casting of Johnny Depp, an actor – at the time – on the hats Pirates of the Caribbean Success. It’s Dahl’s only adaptation to easily recoup its budget ($150 million). In reality, Charlie and the chocolate factory became the eighth biggest film of that year worldwide.

The BFG- $64.4 million (and up)

Spielberg’s attempt to translate Dahl’s beloved novel to the screen should be cinematic magic, an amalgamation of two marvels who are proven masters of their respective crafts. The BFG, for all its charm (much of it achieved by Mark Rylance’s gentle-natured giant), takes the short story and expands it into a whimsical, albeit bloated, film. Too childish for adults and – sometimes – too simple for children, perhaps The BFGThe difficulties at the box office are due to a lackluster word-of-mouth. The is a sense of fascination to be had; it’s just not the whizzpopper we’re hoping for.

Matilda – £62.1m

Danny Devito took on the duties of both directing and starring in this entertaining take on the original book which follows an eight-year-old girl with telekinetic abilities. Although he recovered a little less than half of his budget, the money that Matilda box office failure may have earned its legacy as a cult favorite; today, it’s considered one of Dahl’s finest adaptations, thanks in large part to Pam Ferris’ vulgar turn as Trunchbull headmistress and a certain pigtail scene.

Fantastic Mr. Fox – $46.4 million

Something of a departure for Wes Anderson was this stop-motion animated adaptation – not that the film was without the director’s unmistakable twee aesthetic. Always, Fantastic Mr. Fox will go down as one of the filmmaker’s least successful films, trailing behind The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel (who did three times Fox) – even more surprising given the presence of George Clooney and Meryl Streep.

James and the giant peach – $28.9 million

This humble adaptation mixes Burton-style gothic production design with the stop-motion animation used by director Henry Selick in his 1993 film. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Even the cast—including Joanna Lumley, Pete Postlethwaite, and the voice work of Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfus, and David Thewlis—couldn’t save it from falling $10 million under budget. Still, Dahl’s widow, Liccy, thinks the author would have been “thrilled” with the final product.

Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory – $25 million

This family favorite needs no introduction; from Gene Wilder’s eccentric portrayal of the titular factory owner to the scintillating original score (“Come with me/And you’ll be/In a world of pure imagination”), it was a reissue, DVD sales and TV repeats that made the Mel Stuart adaptation the beloved film it is today. Interestingly, this remains Charlie Bucket actor Peter Ostrum’s only film appearance – he’s now a veterinarian.

The witches – $10.4 million

Perhaps it was Anjelica Huston’s supremely terrifying performance of The Great Witch that scared the kids away from don’t look now director Nicolas Roeg’s chilling adaptation of The witches. Or maybe his relentless portrayal of a young boy facing the prospect of being a mouse for eternity did the trick. Either way, this is the worst performing of all the Dahl adaptations – which has nothing to do with its quality; The witches remains endlessly entertaining work and well worth your time if you come across a Channel 5 broadcast on a Sunday afternoon.

The BFG hits theaters July 22

Comments are closed.