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JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH

Produced by Tim Burton and Denise Di Novi, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH ($40) offered director Henry Selick the opportunity to create a mostly stop-motion follow-up to THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Adapted from the slightly off center children’s book by Roald Dahl, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH tells the story of a young English boy named James Henry Trotter (Paul Terry), who finds his happy existence brought to an end, when his parents are gobbled up by a rampaging rhinoceros. Sent to live with his two abusive aunts, Spiker (Joanna Lumley) and Sponge (Miriam Margolyes), James’ life becomes an endless series of chores, neglect and malnutrition. Despite the bleakness of his existence, James holds on to the dream of a better life in New York City, a place that his parents had intended to take him… that is, before their untimely demise. Things do change for James after the appearance of a mysterious stranger (Pete Postlethwaite), who gives him a bagful of magic green crocodile tongues, which are supposed to make his life better.

Unfortunately, James trips in his aunts’ front yard, and he spills the bagful of magic green crocodile tongues onto the roots of an old peach tree. Thanks to crocodile tongues, the nearly dead peach tree does something it has never done before… it produces a single piece of fruit, grows to gigantic proportions. Of course, Aunts Spiker and Sponge try to use the giant peach for monetary gain, but James puts an end to their plans, when he crawls inside the immense fruit. Inside the giant peach, James encounters a number human sized talking garden bugs, which have also been affected by crocodile tongues. With a little help from his new friends, James and the giant peach are freed from the grasp of Spiker and Sponge, with the occupants of the immense fruit setting off on an adventure that takes them across the Atlantic Ocean. The cast and vocal talent behind JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH also features Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves, Susan Sarandon, David Thewlis, J. Stephen Coyle, Steven Culp, Mike Starr and Susan Turner-Cray.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is technically solid, as it transparently reflects the film as it is. However, certain stylistic choices by the filmmakers may give some the impression that presentation is actually something far less than ideal. The live action segments that bookend JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH are highly stylized, appearing purposely dark, gauzy and artificial. When the film enters the stop-motion realm, the appearance of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH improves dramatically, but not to the extent that some might expect. Image sharpness and fine detail are quite good, but not as good as they appeared THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The colors are purposely subdued and there isn’t anything the pops out or catches one’s eye. Blacks are adequate, while the whites appear reasonably crisp. Contrast is especially doctored during the live action sequences, but far more solid during the stop-motion section of the film. Shadow detail is limited, with said shadows sometimes threatening to swallow things up, like the rhinoceros that gobbled up James parents. The elements from which JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH has been mastered appear relatively clean, but an occasional bit of debris does show up from time to time. Grain is variable, with more being apparent during the live action segments.

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a very nice soundtrack that provides a lot of directional effects, although the surround channels can seem a bit restrained by modern standards. Of course, the talky passages are rather front heavy, but that should come as no surprise. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is quite good, with Randy Newman’s music enjoying the benefits. The bass channel provides significant depth and weight to the material. Voices have a distinctive sense of character, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the extras. A Production Featurette, a Music Video for the song Good News by Randy Newman and a few Still Galleries comprise the "adult" extras. Spike The Aunts Interactive Game is an extra intended for the younger viewers. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). A DVD edition of the film is provided on disc two.

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is a magical stop motion film that has been given a solid upgrade to Blu-ray. Recommended.

 
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH 


James and the Giant Peach (Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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