James and The Giant Peach

This weekend got off to a good start with a trip to see "James and the Giant Peach" with a couple of other Dad Fultz gang members. The movie was quite good, much better than the previous stop motion effort Nightmare Before Christmas.

The story was one of getting away from a bad situation, travelling and reaching a better state (New York in this film :-).

The bad situation was really bad with two mean ugly aunts forcing suddenly orphaned James (parents run over by a rhinoceros after the first two minutes of the film) to work for starvation level food (fish heads) and suffer their abuse.

The means of travel is provided by a magic guy who gives James some heavily processed alligator tongues after he receives James' hot air balloon message (some time I have to try folding up a piece of paper into a container and putting a candle into it). Of course, he runs back to the house (with joy) and trips and drops the bag of tongues onto the ground. They get eaten by various insects and a peach tree. All of them grow larger than usual. The aunts then make the giant peach into a tourist attraction and make James work even more. He gets fed up and eats some of the peach one night, and then finds a tunnel into it.

Inside are the giant insects. A grasshopper gentleman with a monocle, a Brooklyn style male centipede, an old woman light providing bug, a sexy spider (Brian broke up when he noticed her high heeled boots) and a blind earthworm (his brother was chopped in half by the evil aunts, now he has two half brothers). They start travelling unexpectedly when the peach rolls down to the sea (the centipede breaks the stem when the aunts arrive and start causing trouble).

On the sea they encounter some really good graphic art design. There's the mechanical shark (computer animated), a flock of birds (I liked the realism of them trapping one experimental bird before getting the whole flock to fly them away), and several other things I won't mention to leave you with some suspense (including a scary part).

There was also a heavy Monty Python influence in some of the scenes, one where the boy's dream was rendered as cardboard cutouts, another where the camera pulls back to show the peach dangling from part of a mobile along with other objects, and a hand reaching up to grab the peach from the mobile (I thought it was God's hand but it turned out to be James' in a recursive scaled camera shot). There are also some really wonderful shots from onboard the peach that make it seem quite realistic and at the same time amazing - looking down at the sea passing underneath as it is flying and then panning up to show the flock of birds flapping away in front of the starry night sky.

Anyway, cut to the end. They get to New York and after a bit more trouble, James finds out that he has a new family in his insect friends and the film ends happily with a newspaper montage.

After the Film

Since Dave didn't make it, we didn't have any idea where our planned dinner spot, Houston's, was. Instead, I thought it would be a good time to visit Dairy Queen on Bank street (haven't been there for a few years). It should be fairly quiet at 9pm too. I was wrong. The parking lot was jammed full (Brian parked on some glass and gritty stuff, Andrew parked on a snow bank). Of course, this was the night when they were having 10 cent hamburgers. So, we waited in line and got some food and ended up sitting outside on the park bench tables. Fortunately it had stopped raining and was warm (10 degrees). Much fat was chewed, punctuated by much laughter as Brian told us his horror stories of shaving in the old days.

I got home with an hour to spare and stayed up late to finish off Phoenix 3, a 3DO game by Gray Matter in Toronto (Artech traded a 3DO development system for their Super Nintendo system a year or two ago). It combines platform style running jumping and shooting with 3D space combat and a story line told in video clips between the action segments. It had the feeling of a good cheap science fiction book, the kind that you can't put down. I like things such as rescuing the Happy Camper's big ship in a space battle and then going inside and running and jumping to get past the burning fires (this is after a battle after all), aliens and robots (one robot type has a whip!) to the engine room in time to shut it down.

That was Friday. Saturday was quiet, just putting away the Christmas lights and finishing a Byte and watching B5. Sunday should be quiet too.

- Alex

P.S. I'm going to try to put this report on the world wide web.

Copyright © 1996 by Alexander G. M. Smith.