James and the Giant Peach
A young boy's discovery of a gigantic peach triggers an eventful journey across the sea in this strikingly designed and surprisingly twisted animated adventure. A live-action framing device establishes the dark yet fanciful mood one might expect from an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story, as young British lad James (Paul Terry) is orphaned by the death of his parents and forced to live with two cruel, repulsive aunts (played by noted British character actors Miriam Margolyes and Joanna Lumley of British TV hit Absolutely Fabulous). The visit of a mysterious stranger provides a means of escape, however, through a magic bag of "crocodile tongues" that bring about the appearance of the giant peach. The curious James soon winds up inside the fruit, at which point his body changes, and the film switches to a combination of stop-motion and digital animation. The new James meets up with a group of talking, oversized insects, including a vampish spider (voiced by Susan Sarandon), a sarcastic centipede (voiced by Richard Dreyfuss), and a matronly ladybug (voiced by Jane Leeves). These creatures become his traveling companions when the peach rolls into the Atlantic Ocean, and James and his new friends must brave a variety of dangers to reach the shore. Director Henry Selick provides further proof of the visual skill he demonstrated in The Nightmare Before Christmas, creating a fascinating, often eerie alternate universe, while Randy Newman provides the upbeat musical accompaniment. Young children may be disturbed by the story's creepier overtones, but the mixture of remarkable visuals, oddball characters, and off-kilter fantasy will appeal to all other audiences.