Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jonathan Roberts, and Steve Bloom, based upon the novel by Roald Dahl
Directed by: Henry Selick
Starring: Jane Leeves, Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Paul Terry, Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes, and Pete Postlethwaite
Music by: Randy Newman
- Making-of special
- Still frame gallery with concept art and puppet designs
- “Good News” music video
- Original theatrical trailer
Released by: Disney
My Advice: Own it.
[ad#longpost]Before he can be carried off to the nigh-mythical New York, young James (Terry) is orphaned when his idyllic parents are both killed by a rhino in Africa. James is then taken in by his two cruel aunts, played by Lumley and Margolyes, who work him ruthlessly and barely feed him. His only friend is the spider who lives in his window. Enter Postlethwaite as the mysterious stranger who offers James a bag of magic glowing creatures who can make his dreams come true. James loses most of the magic creatures, but one infiltrates a peach on a tree outside his house. The peach grows to enormous size, prompting the aunts to create a circus-side-show-like scam to milk their neighbors of money. Eventually, James discovers that the peach is inhabited by giant insects, one of whom is the spider James had earlier saved from his aunt’s broomstick. He escapes with the insects inside the peach, destined for adventure and looking for hope in the New World.
The voice acting is excellent and perfectly cast. Frasier‘s British Jane Leeves is a lovely Ladybug, and Susan Sarandon is her usual splendid self as the sultry Miss Spider. The transfer to DVD was done smoothly with no jumps or static to be found. The music is as enjoyable as it was in the theatre.
The disc itself bears a nice colored image of some main characters, as does the case jacket. Nothing special, but sturdy enough and attractive on the shelf. The included pamplet provides a bit of how-this-movie-came-to-be “information” and provides a list of the selectable chapters.
The print quality is also excellent; the colors are crisp, and the stop-motion animation is wonderful and amazing. The insects are given such fine facial expressions that you’ll feel as if they have real feelings.
It would have been nice to have had a commentary track, especially with the producer (Tim Burton) or with Selick, but the extras on this disc are good. Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas special edition got a more extensive treatment, including a much more expanded image gallery, but compared to the many poor quality DVDs out there and given the excellent image and sound transfers, James and the Giant Peach is a solid addition to your home library.
This is a film honestly safe for children, but enjoyable with some subtle sophistication and visual interest for adults.
Also, keep in mind that the original book James and the Giant Peach was banned from children’s libraries in various places. It seems that the “magical” worm-things in the beginning seemed eerily like drug abuse to the Powers That Be. So in enjoying James and the Giant Peach, you can simultaneously amuse yourself and thumb your nose at the idiots who would ban books for foolish or spurious reasons. Had it been a truly “special” edition, it would have been even nicer.
Don’t forget to look for the Jack Skellington cameo in the underwater galleon scene!