It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Almost all Disney animated films involve dead or absent parents whose departure frees their little heroes to become independent adventurers. But ”James and the Giant Peach” wipes out the parents with so much glee, it almost seems like an inside joke. The movie opens with a pastel, soft-focus live action sequence in which little James lives an idyllic life by the seaside with his loving mom and dad. All is perfect. And then--bam! Both parents are gobbled up by a giant rhinoceros. So much for them.
James (Paul Terry) is immediately packed off to a miserable life with his horrid relatives, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, who work him like a slave, mock him and feed him fish heads--when he's lucky. The lonely little boy draws his dreams on a paper bag and makes it into a hot-air balloon, sending it floating by candlepower.
A mysterious old man (Pete Postlethwaite) finds the paper bag and returns it filled with countless little green crocodile tongues. James spills the bag, and some of the tongues hop away, but one enchants an old peach tree on the aunt's property and a giant peach starts growing.
His aunts sell tickets to the attraction, but then the starving James eats a bite of the peach, along with a crocodile tongue, and that unleashes the peach's magic, as the movie cuts from live action to animation.