JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
From the twisted but beautiful mind of Roald Dahl, Disney brings the stop-motion brilliance of Tim Burton and Henry Selick to another story. James is a British orphan being raised by his evil aunts. Kept as their slaves, James longs to visit another land, and he gets his opportunity when a strange man gives him some magical crocodile tongues that can grant wishes. He loses them, but soon discovers they made their way into the ground, causing several insects and other creepy crawlies – and a lone peach – to grow to fantastic size. James climbs inside, and the peach unhooks, sending him and his new friends on a wild adventure.
WHAT I LIKED
I love the books of Roald Dahl… not just the one everybody’s heard of, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I remember reading “James and the Giant Peach” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” when I was a kid, long before they were developed into feature films.
While there are noticeable differences in this film from the book, “James and the Giant Peach” was a brilliant movie. The most impressive element was the use of stop-motion animation, of which Henry Selick is a genius (as proved by his direction in “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline”). It was a bold choice to mix live-action and stop-motion, and it’s not something you’d see today given the pervasiveness of CGI. It’s a lost art, and for this reason alone a film like “James and the Giant Peach” needs to be treasured.
Having the film re-released on Blu-ray is a wonderful thing because this is a medium that preserves the beauty of the image. I also applaud Disney’s choice to not employ any overuse of digital noise reduction. Sure, that results in some rather grainy images in the film, but that’s what they camera captured back in the early 90s.
If you haven’t seen “James and the Giant Peach,” pick it up on Blu-ray and enjoy the ride. And if you’ve only seen it at home on VHS, check it out in high definition. It’s worth the trip.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The only stumbling block I found with the film, beyond the minor changes in the story from the book, is the decision to include musical numbers. I know that Roald Dahl was a fan of inserting lyrics into his books, but the musical numbers just seemed too distracting.
This was probably because the film was made in the early 1990s, and this was a time when almost every animated film came with a song list. It has only been in recent years that studios have wised up to realize that kids don’t need to be sung to in order to be entertained. I know that reduces the opportunity to have a soundtrack tie-in, but forced songs just seem, well, forced.
The new Blu-ray includes the vintage special features from the original Blu-ray release, including a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, the theatrical trailer and Randy Newman’s music video of “Good News.” The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD of the film.
New to Blu-ray is an interactive set-top game called “Spike the Aunts,” which isn’t bad but runs a little rough, depending on the reaction capabilities of your player.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of Roald Dahl, Henry Selick or Tim Burton… and anyone who wants to see an extremely innovative kids’ movie.