Directed by Henry Selick
Featuring voices by: Joanna Lumley, Jane Leeves, Paul Terry, Davis Thewlis, Susan Sarandon
“Why don’t skeletons play music in church? Because they got no organs.”
Richard Dreyfuss as the Centipede
Henry Selick is an Oscar nominated stop motion director and writer best known for directing The Nightmare Before Christmas. But trust me, anytime you see the name Henry Selick, cinema fans are in for a real treat. So, when the blu-ray of James and the Giant Peach from 1996 hit my doorstep, I couldn’t wait to pop it in the player.
Based on the beloved children’s novel by popular author Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach tells the story of James (Paul Terry), an orphan who lives with his aunts, Spiker (Joanna Lumley) and Sponge (Miriam Margolyes). Despite having cool monikers like Spiker and Sponge, these ladies are not nice. In fact, they are downright cruel.
So, James is leading one sad little life. That is until an old man arrives on his doorstep with an offer to change his life. He is offered the chance to live in a giant peach that is the home to huge insects. What insects you ask? Well, there is a centipede (Richard Dreyfuss), ladybug (Jane Leeves), a grasshopper (Simon Callow), a spider (Susan Sarandon) and an earthworm (David Thewlis).
James joins the menagerie of creatures inside the giant peach and some experiences some interesting adventures. It would seem that life inside of a giant peach is anything but ordinary.
It isn’t long before James and his new found friends have hatched a dangerous plan to escape the evil clutches of Spiker and Sponge and make his way to the magical land that is known to us as New York.
The stories of Roald Dahl (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, ect) are endlessly inventive, wildly creative, wonderfully bizarre and perfect for Henry Selick to adapt. So, this is a perfect marriage of two ingenious talents coming together to create magic.
The character design and art direction are nothing less than eye popping, but one would expect nothing less from Selick. The direction and pacing of the film is adept and perfectly executed.
Where do I begin in regards to the voice acting? First things first, Joanna Lumley as the evil Aunt Spiker is spectacular. Lumley is familiar to anyone that is a fan of the BBC series Absolutely Fabulous where she portrayed Patsy. Sponge portrayed by Miriam Margolyes is another noteworthy performance. Just take a look at her IMDB: she has starred in many classic British and American TV series and films. Jane Leeves (Frasier, Murphy Brown) also turns in a fantastic performance. David Thewlis and Richard Dreyfuss are great in their characters as well.
By the way, did I mention that Randy Newman composed the music for the film? While I am would call myself a big Newman fan, the work in this film fits perfectly.
So, this is a no brainer add to the collection. Put it right next to your The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride DVD’s and all will be right with the world.
Presented in 1080p AVC/MPEG 4, the film looks spectacular. The level of detail is impressive and the overall image is wonderful. While it could be a bit brighter, I wouldn’t lodge a big complaint about that. The black levels are respectable and I did not notice any artifacts.
Presented in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, the film sounds wonderful. The dialogue is crystal clear and crisp. The soundtrack is mixed well. Overall, the sound is immersive and lively. This is an all around solid sounding Blu Ray release.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film is presented in a standard blu amaray case with artwork appropriate for the film presented.
There are a few bonus features to explore on this release. There is a standard making of featurette to view. A music video from Randy Newman is also included.
A gallery of stills is available as well as a game called Spike the Aunts. That’s it folks. So, in the bonus feature category, this release is lacking.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (not an average) 8/10