Review of Raold Dahl's James and The Giant Peach: Special Edition
James and The Giant Peach on Blu-Ray
Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also by Dahl via Burton, who produced James (which was directed by Henry Selick), James and the Giant Peach is a juicy musical fantasy, scored by the ubiquitous Randy Newman and filled with an amazing cast of characters voiced by Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon and others you will recognize.
I enjoyed watching this with my young son and a group of his friends when it first came out in 1996 almost as much as they did!
If you (or your kids) are Roald Dahl and /or Tim Burton or Henry Selick fans, you will definitely want to own this movie! And, despite its faults, the blue-ray is considerably better than the dvd.
Randy Newman's orchestral score for James and the Giant Peach is considered one of his best. Mastered by Disney and top-notch.
The sound on the newer version is superb and the film is as riveting as I remembered it, but it apparently was not re-mastered for this edition and the live-action sequences, which looked okay on film and video, may look somewhat grainier in HD. It does not detract, but it would have been better had some attention been paid to correcting that a bit. (Selick intentionally filmed these parts of the story to look a bit ethereal, but it does not transfer as well as one would have hoped.)
The stop-action animation is a marvel of detail and a fine early example of what was then a newer and still developing technology. "James" follows the earlier Selick/Burton collaboration, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and was followed by Coraline. (It is interesting to watch the three of them sequentially to see how the art and science behind stop-action animation and Selick's direction developed.)
There is nothing "extra special" about the extras in this "special edition" The video game included does not impress. It is not on a visual par with the film and involves poking the aunts with a rhinocerous horn. Only the youngest kids showed any interest in it and it did not hold their interest more than a few minutes. The other features are also disappointing and do not provide any novelty, so if you are buying this just for the "extras," don't. If you are buying it for a better viewing experience, I would consider it money well spent.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
★ ★ ★ ★
Add a star if you're from Brooklyn
(You'll know why once you've seen the movie)
Still a Fresh and Delicious Family Film!
The film dates to 1996 and was one of the earlier efforts to incorporate stop-motion animation (claymation) with live action, yet it does not look dated.
Quite frankly, however, the music doesn't hold up nearly as well as the rest of the movie, although the sound is superb on the blu-ray.
Another Favorite Roald Dahl Film
In my opinion Randy Newman's songs have all started to sound alike, unlike his earliest work, which may due to over-exposure or excessive Oscars.
Regardless, though, the visuals and Dahl's classic story make for a very delicious, warm fuzzy peach of a family film.
So make some popcorn, snuggle up on the sofa with your family, and enjoy the adventure!
A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men
The Story in a nutshell
or, more accurately, in a peach pit
James (Paul Terry), who was orphaned as a ten-year-old when a wild rhinocerous ate his parents, is sent to live on a deserted island with his evil aunts. The two aunts, Spiker (Joanna Lumley) and Sponge (Miriam Margolyes, whom you may recognize from Harry Potter films), actually make Cinderella's mean stepmother look sweet. They not only make James do all of the work, but they abuse him and starve him.
A mysterious stranger gives James a bag of magical crocodile tongues that had been boiled in the skull of a witch with an assortment of bugs. James throws it on the ground in disgust. Soon there is a giant peach on one of the emaciated trees.
One night James takes a bite of the peach. It opens and he finds a group of talking insects (Richard Dreyfus, Susan Sarandon, Simon Callow, Jane Leeves, and others) hiding in it. They become friends and free the peach from the tree. It rolls into the ocean (crushing the aunts' car) and they embark on an adventurous trip to New York City. (In the book Dahl had the peach crush and kill the aunts, not just their car. Leaving the aunts alive was a disappointment to kids familiar with the book, as they looked forward to the villains vanquished.) James and friends encounter a variety of events and fantastic creatures, including fighting skeleton pirates (Selick's addition, not in Dahl's book) and a huge shark.
Another Family Fun Film Based on a Roald Dahl Story
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Available in paperback, hardcover, kindle, and audio editions.
About the PG rating
The film does have some sequences that younger children may be afraid of. If they are prone to nightmares, wait until they are older. As you know, Dahl's work can have a dark side, which seems to bother adults more than most children. (Remember, the original versions of fairy tales were much scarier and darker than Disney cartoons and modernized versions, yet that did not detract from their popularity and may, in fact, have contributed on some level to their appeal.)
Some younger children may be frightened by parts of the film, and if they are prone to nightmares, wait until they are a little older. Personally, I have not yet met any child over the age of 5 or 6 who was not captivated by James's adventures and thoroughly absorbed in his story, but please exercise your own good judgment in deciding the appropriateness of this film for the child(ren) in your life.
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© 2011 Chazz