Picks and Pans Review: James and the Giant Peach
This stunning, almost violently fanciful adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1961 children's classic comes from the team responsible for 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, including producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick. But it's a far livelier entertainment, mixing live action with both stop-action and digital animation.
Peach tells the wild story of a lonely British orphan (Terry) and his escape from his haggish aunts. When a giant peach sprouts in their yard, he crawls into the huge, succulent fruit (paging Dr. Freud!) and finds himself in the company of a team of human-size bugs. Once the peach breaks off from its stem, they all roll off onto a series of adventures. By contrast, Nightmare's plot boiled down to a skeleton coping with depression.
The scenes within the soggy confines of the peach tend to feel claustrophobic. But most of the movie soars. A typically dazzling episode finds the peach tethered to seagulls and floating over a blue ocean, while the travelers fend off warheads fired by a monstrous mechanical shark. And a brief nightmare sequence, which appears to be some sort of hallucinatory blend of collage and live action, is simply one of the greatest bits of animation I've ever seen. (G)