James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Peaches and Scream

When James (Paul Terry) was just a child his parents spoke of taking him to America to see the Empire State Building but disaster struck when his parents were killed and young James had to movie in with two mean aunts (Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes) who treated him like slave labour. But then a stranger (Pete Postlethwaite) gives him a bag of crocodile tongues and the magic starts to happen as a peach grows to a giant size and James meets an array of insects which live in the peach. Together they decide to go to America and New York, using thread from the spider to harness the peach to some seagulls.

Okay I am all for encouraging young children to think outside of the box and let their imagination run wild but "James and the Giant Peach" is out there, it is one of the most out there children's movies which I have come across. Now for those who loved the Roald Dahl story as children probably won't find it so out there but when watched for the first time as a grown up you almost question what Dahl was smoking when he wrote it, with its eclectic ideas from crocodile tongues to a giant peach and a talking centipede.

But in fairness it is not just Dahl's story which is out there as there is also Henry Selick's vision which is just as out there from the opening live-action sequences with the over the top make-up which makes Joanna Lumley as one of the evil aunts almost skeletal to the stop motion work. It is frankly the stop motion work which makes the movie and that is when it starts to take on a style similar to Selick's earlier "The Nightmare Before Christmas"; that sense of dark but comical.

The trouble is or at least the trouble for me is that whilst visually impressive "James and the Giant Peach" failed to draw me in to the quirky story with its various episodes. As I said maybe those who read Dahl's book as children may enjoy it more as a whole rather than just a visually intriguing movie.

What this all boils down to is that "James and the Giant Peach" just didn't do it for me and whilst I can appreciate the skill when it comes to the stop motion work that was the only thing which impressed.