Children’s movies have been fashionable lately, with “Babe” and “Toy Story” getting critical praise as well as rewards at the box-office.
“James and the Giant Peach,” based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, may be aimed at the same audience, but it is a movie of an entirely different vein. While “Babe” and “Toy Story” were fairly conventional, plot-heavy films, “James” is a fantastic, dream-like cinematic trip.
The movie opens with James and his parents cloud-watching on a beach in England. All is bright and happy, but not for long. James is soon sent to live with his unimaginably horrid aunts, Sponge and Spiker, because his parents are killed by a huge, dark rhinoceros that seemed to come out of the sky.
James is miserable with Spiker and Sponge, who make him work all the time and feed him fish heads for dinner. One day, he comes across a bag of magic, wiggling worms, and an old man tells him the worms can do things so wonderful that he will never be miserable again.
When he spills them near a peach tree, a huge peach begins to grow. Despite his aunts’ attempts to make money off the peach, James crawls inside it when he’s supposed to be picking up garbage.
Inside, he finds a cast of animated friends, and he also becomes animated. The inhabitants of the peach are various bugs who crawled inside the peach and were made large like the peach itself.
To escape Sponge and Spiker, the peach rolls away and into the ocean. Eventually the peach and crew take flight and head for New York City.
The beauty of “James and the Giant Peach” is it relies on marvelous images and impressions of emotion to keep the audience interested throughout the odyssey. The sight of the peach floating through brilliant orange clouds is worth the price of the movie.
James undergoes a change inside the peach, as his friends nurture him to a state of security. This whole element of the movie touches a chord. The insects help James overcome the emotional scars he suffered as a result of the death of his parents, and the abuse at the hands of his aunts. His friends become a surrogate family; it’s incredibly fun to watch them wallow happily in the ripe flesh of the peach.
Before the peach reaches New York, James has to confront the rhino that killed his parents just as surely as Luke Skywalker had to confront Darth Vader. Not to worry: James triumphs over the rhino and his putrid aunts to live a bright, happy life in the Big Apple.
Going to “James and the Giant Peach” is truly like entering another, more symbolic world. Though some may miss the presence of an exciting plot, fans of movies like “Fantasia” should not miss “James” while it’s still on the big screen.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.