James and the Giant Peach (1996)

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Directed by: Henry Selick

Starring: Paul Terry, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss

I don’t know if there is a more three-stars-ish film than James and the Giant Peach. It’s exactly halfway on the scale from good to bad! It’s based on some decent work by a great writer, it has some great stop-motion by an extremely talented director, but it’s overshadowed by the constant live-action bits melded into it, the acting is good enough… Right in the fuckin’ middle.

The titular James is an orphan boy who lives with his two evil aunts (in Roald Dahl’s world, this is the childhood of every single human being), and who gets some magic worms from a weird old Pete Postlethwaite. As expected, the aunts throw out the worms, but they get into an old peach tree and cause it to grow a giant, magical peach. Inside the peach are several bugs who have grown human-sized and intelligent, and they turn the peach into a blimp and fly James to New York City.

It’s pretty much as generic of a kid’s story as you get with Dahl, but that means it’s still got some interesting characters to it. Miss Spider is actually kind of an unusual archetype for this kind of kid’s adventure flick, and she helps make the whole group seem more interesting. I guess my biggest complaint with this film is that they spend SO MUCH TIME with live-action stuff (where you can really tell the kid actor can’t act. He does a decent job in the voice-only parts, though. MIDDLE). At the time, all I wanted to see was a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas, artistically at least, and it’s just too short.

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