Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: "James and the Giant Peach" a Delight

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 105 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Running time: 79 minutes (1 hour, 19 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some frightening images
DIRECTOR: Henry Selick
WRITERS: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jonathan Roberts, Steve Bloom (based upon the book by Roald Dahl)
PRODUCERS: Denise Di Novi and Tim Burton
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Hiro Narita (live action) and Pete Kozachik (animation)
EDITOR: Stan Webb
COMPOSER: Randy Newman
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Paul Terry, Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves, Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes, Pete Postlethwaite, Susan Sarandon, and David Thewlis

The subject of this movie review is James and the Giant Peach, a 1996 British-American stop-motion animation film and musical fantasy from director Henry Selick. The film is a co-production of Walt Disney Pictures and the British film production company, Allied Filmmakers.

Stop-motion animation director Henry Selick followed up his 1993 collaboration with Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas, with James and the Giant Peach. Based upon a children’s book by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda), James and the Giant Peach is a mixture of live-action film and stop-motion animation.

While not as well done as Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach is a beautiful film full of flights of fancy and imagination, and Randy Newman’s Oscar-nominated score (“Best Music – Original Musical or Comedy Score”) provides the delightful backdrop and joyous songs to carry the narrative forward. This film is also more for children than Nightmare Before Christmas (which has a large cult following among adults), but the magic of the filmmaking will still impress older viewers.

After a rogue rhinoceros kills his parents, James (Paul Terry) is forced to live with his nasty Aunt Spiker (Joanna Lumley) and Aunt Sponge (Miriam Margolyes), who make him work hard, go hungry, and bar him from having any fun, but when magic causes a giant peach to grow in his aunts’ backyard, James climbs inside the massive fruit to find adventure (at this point the film goes from live action to stop-motion animation). He befriends a group of giant insects that used to live in his yard; the same magic that grew the peach has made them human-like. Together with his new friends, James embarks on a great adventure to the place his parents had planned to take him, New York City.

Paul Terry is strong and engaging as the film’s central character, and the voiceovers are a treat. Listen for Richard Dreyfuss’ delightful turn as the brash and pugnacious Centipede.

7 of 10

July 3, 2005

1997 Academy Awards, USA: 1 nomination: “Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score” (Randy Newman)


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