James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD
by Jef Burnham
Available August 3, 2010 in a Blu-ray/DVD combo from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
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To my understanding, the special features on this Special Edition release are identical to Disney’s 2000 Special Edition DVD, with the exception of a BD game where you assault James’ obnoxious aunts with a rhino. The returning features are admittedly slim for a Special Edition, but they include the theatrical trailer, a Randy Newman music video and a short, making-of featurette. So the only real selling point of this release for James and the Giant Peach fans is the Blu-ray upgrade.
As is expected from a Disney release, the HD transfer looks and sounds terrific. The grain of the film stock used for the live action sequences comes through beautifully and the stop motion sequences look amazingly crisp. On the other hand, the restored sound roars through at all the right moments to emphasize the action, whilst also emphasizing how weak the songs are, so I’d say it pretty much evens out in the sound department.
As for the film itself, James and the Giant Peach was director Henry Selick and producer Tim Burton’s follow-up to their 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas. As such, one would expect a little more out of James than they deliver (and this coming from someone who isn’t particularly a fan Nightmare to begin with). The live action scenes are hokey and feel only partially realized, the enemies James and the bugs encounter wholly lack personality, and the songs from Randy Newman are uncharacteristically un-catchy and all-around shockingly dull, stopping the film dead for no good reason every fifteen minutes or so. The look of the film is, however, very imaginative and I think that even though adults will find this film very flawed, children may be inspired by the creativity of the imagery. Of course, it goes without saying that your child would benefit far more from reading Roald Dahl’s book, which, I would have to concede, would be a far better way to invest your money.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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