James and the Giant Peach (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)


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Rating: PG

Simon Callow as Grasshopper (voice)
Richard Dreyfuss as Centipede (voice)
Jane Leeves as Ladybug (voice)
Joanna Lumley as Aunt Spiker
Miriam Margolyes as Aunt Sponge / The Glowworm (voice)
Pete Postlethwaite as Old Man
Susan Sarandon as Miss Spider (voice)
Paul Terry as James
David Thewlis as Earthworm (voice)

Special Features:
Disc 1: Blu-ray
New! Spike The Aunts Interactive Game

Disc 2: DVD
Behind The Scenes Making Of
“Good News” Music Video
Original Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.66:1)
DTS-HD MA 5.1 Sound
Spanish and French Languages
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 79 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“In an all-new digitally restored special edition from Tim Burton, the acclaimed director of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ comes the astounding film that captured the hearts of fans and critics all across the world. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, Burton, Denise Di Novi and director Henry Selick combine a fascinating mix of live-action, stop-motion animation and computer-generated special effects to create a world beyond your imagination.

After the daring rescue of a spider, a young boy named James gains possession of some magic crocodile tongues. When James spills them in the garden, out sprouts an enormous peach! Climbing inside, he meets an astonishing cast of characters and embarks on a magical odyssey full of thrills and adventure. Voiced by an all-star cast, including legendary actors Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Simon Callow and Jane Leeves, and featuring the celebrated music of Randy Newman, this classic story is delicious entertainment for the whole family!”

“James and the Giant Peach (Special Edition)” is rated PG.

I never saw “James and the Giant Peach” when it first hit theaters in 1996. I didn’t see it in the following 14 years either. But when it arrived on Blu-ray, my kids and I were excited to check it out. First of all, it was produced by Tim Burton. It was also created by the makers of “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” one of my youngest son’s all time favorite films. Throw in the fact that it’s based on a story by Roald Dahl of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fame and you have some pretty good reasons to check it out. But if that isn’t enough, the cast includes such favorites as Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis, and Joanna Lumley from “Absolutely Fabulous.” The score is also by Randy Newman from “Toy Story.” On paper, this should be an incredible film.

Upon watching the movie, my excitement quickly became diminished. The story starts out with the standard situation of an orphan being horribly treated by his extended family. James is made to live in the attic under horrible conditions. (Sound like Harry Potter?) Then when a magical peach grows in his yard, he crawls inside of it and discovers all sorts of talking insects. They then use the peach as transport to New York City to escape the horrible aunts. After a perilous journey, they end up in New York stuck on top of the Empire State Building. This is when we’re treated to a terrible conclusion where the aunts miraculously show up again, all of the bystanders are idiots, and all the children of New York appear and eat the remains of the peach. I don’t know how the story in the original Dahl book went, but this story was too surreal, too random, and it didn’t flow well. It was a big disappointment.

Besides the problems with the script, there’s also a problem with the way it was filmed. Much of the movie is the amazing stop-motion animation like in “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” That is really cool and a marvel to behold. It’s really the only reason to watch “James and the Giant Peach.” But the beginning and ending is live-action. The animation makes the bizarre stuff that happens in the story a bit more acceptable, but the live-action footage does nothing but drag the film down. It makes the audience take longer to get into the story and when the bizarre ending takes place, the live-action just looks silly. There’s no other way to describe dozens of children running up through a crowd, grabbing handfuls of smashed giant peach, and shoving it in their faces. I’m sure there was a lot of symbolism intended in the scene, but it was lost on me.

My youngest child was also a bit frightened by “James and the Giant Peach.” He didn’t like the evil aunts, and scenes with a smoking, flying rhino terrified him. This is a kid that’s used to watching monster movies, but when he heard the rhino killed James’ parents, that was too much for him. I think some of the insect stuff put him on edge, too. So I have to say I wouldn’t recommend this movie to kids under 6.

I’d only recommend “James and the Giant Peach” to major Tim Burton fans, fans of stop-motion animation, fans of Roald Dahl, and Disney collectors. If you don’t fall in any of these categories, then you should probably pass on this Blu-ray.

There aren’t all that many bonus features on this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. You’ll find a “Spike the Aunts” interactive game on the Blu-ray, and that’s it. For the rest of the bonus features you have to go to the DVD. There you’ll find a music video, a ‘making of’ featurette, and the trailer. So all in all the bonus features are a bit of a letdown.