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

30 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 8/3/10
$39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for some frightening images.
Stars Paul Terry, Pete Postlethwaite, Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes. Voices of Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Simon Callow, Jane Leeves.

Based on the Roald Dahl children’s book, James and the Giant Peach is a whimsical musical fantasy about a young boy who dreams of escaping his mean aunts and visiting New York City.

The film was a modest performer in 1996, produced by Tim Burton and the creative team behind 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is generally the better-regarded production.

James and the Giant Peach begins and ends with live-action sequences to establish James’ plight, with the cinematography and set design stylized in such a way to match the stop-motion animation at the heart of the story. A mysterious man gives James a bag of magic dust, which accidentally seeps into the soil to cause a giant peach to grow. James takes a bite, a hole in the peach opens, and he crawls inside, morphing into an animated character and surrounded by anthropomorphized insects from the garden. They set the peach into the ocean, tie it to a flock of seagulls and fly toward the big city, which is no more or less absurdist than anything else Dahl came up with in his writings.

For a brief moment, the flying peach evokes the plot conceit of Up and its flying house, as both are improbable vessels destined for a fantastic land.

The Blu-ray presentation maintains a nice texture for the movie that lets the live-action and animation blend well together.  The Blu-ray also comes with a fun, interactive “Spike the Aunts” game based on the post-credits sequence of the movie, as well as the production featurette and Randy Newman music video from a DVD released in 2000. 

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