I have a really old copy of James and the Giant Peach, which I think maybe belonged to my mum once upon a time. However it’s also the copy I’ve had since childhood and read then too. While I’ve always remembered the rough plot of James and the Giant Peach, it wasn’t until recently that I re-read it, with Lily as a bedtime story. I forgot how old-fashioned the writing style is and even how Roald Dahl’s writing was. That’s not to say it was unenjoyable because it wasn’t, but I did wonder if Lily would both follow the style and enjoy it herself.
I needn’t have worried though, as she loved it. The beginning was sad, with James’ parents dying and him moving in with his Aunts. The agony drawn out over a few chapters while we discover how miserable they made him and how sorry we felt for him. Then the magic, the growing peach and the journey. It’s a lovely simple story but wonderful nonetheless and a great bedtime story as the chapters are really short.
Over Christmas, I spotted that the movie of James and the Giant Peach was on TV and so I set it to record. Of course Christmas can be crazy busy and we never got around to watching it. However last night we finally sat down together and since I had fabric to cut and needed the lounge floor, I put on the movie. I hadn’t realised it was by Disney but that gave me hope, though I spotted Tim Burton’s name on the credits and did wonder if that would make it a little weird.
The beginning of the movie, was a little over exaggerated. It reminded me somewhat of scenes from Big Fish, but since that’s one of my favourite movies, it wasn’t necessarily off-putting. The rest of the beginning was fairly standard and as expected, the Aunts being fairly horrible and James being as expected. The peach grew, the adventure began and really that was where the movie lost it for me.
First the movie style change, which was okay and completely understandable to be honest. However then the storyline changed and that wasn’t okay. For the most part, the journey was similar to the book and changed only to make it more interesting I guess (though I wasn’t keen). However the journey specifically to New York wasn’t quite accurate, even though that is where the peach ended up. The drama with his Aunts arriving in New York (they were supposed to be dead) was ridiculous and the typical US movie “speech” that was given by James was pretty over the top too. All in all, when the movie ended, I felt disappointed. Lily even said “well that was a let down”.
I know movies get changed when they go from page to screen but I wasn’t keen on these changes. I really enjoy Roald Dahl’s writing and while many of his books do seem a little outdated these days, they are still good classics. Some movie adaptations have worked, while others haven’t. But I didn’t really enjoy this one. I think I’ll stick to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda from now on, though we have Fantastic Mr Fox on the sky box to watch at some point too.