July 1, 2016

Blending live action and computer animation, Steven Spielberg has adapted Roald Dahl’s fantastical tale, featuring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) as the titular character, The Big Friendly Giant.

Scripted by the late Melissa Matheson (“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”) and directed by Spielberg, it’s set in London in the early 1980s and revolves around 10 year-old orphan, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a lonely insomniac who - at 3 a.m. - spies a 24-ft.-tall giant lurking about the cobblestone streets, collecting and dispensing phosphorescent dreams to unsuspecting sleepers.

She sees him and he sees her. Reaching his hand through an open window, the grandfatherly-looking BFG gently plucks Sophie out of bed because - if word got out that giants roamed the city - that would end their nocturnal visits.

So the BFG whisks terrified Sophie off to Giant Country, where sinister Fleshlumpeater (voiced by Jermaine Clement) and Bloodbottler (voiced by Bill Hader), constantly bully him.

While the BFG sticks to a vegetarian diet of slimy Snozzcumbers, his colossal cohorts are “cannybulls” (cannibals), often kidnapping young “human beans.” Even though the BFG hides her in his cave, Sophie is in constant danger.

The only answer - she believes - is to seek assistance from Queen Elizabeth II (Penelope Wilton) in Buckingham Palace. At that point, their adventure really comes alive.

Much amusement emanates from the BFG’s whimsical dialect known as “gobblefunk,” filled with garbled malapropisms.

There’s also a lot of farting. The BFG deplores burping but celebrates flatulence, which he calls “whizzpopping,” a gastric reaction stimulated by the upside-down bubbles in Frobscottle, the fermented Snozzcumber beverage, which he eagerly shares not only with Her Majesty but also her Welsh corgis.

While newcomer Ruby Barnhill is certainly spunky, much credit should go to Mark Rylance’s astute performance, characterized by alienation and affection. But one can only wonder about the different comedic pace that would have been set by Robin Williams, Spielberg’s original casting choice.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The BFG” is an entertaining, escapist 8. Good? Yes. Great? No.