James and the Giant Peach

Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
James and the Giant Peach Movie Poster Image
Fabulous adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book.
  • PG
  • 1996
  • 79 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 24 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 29 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

May inspire kids to pick up the classic book that inspired this movie.

Positive Messages

Positive themes/messages include friendship, facing your fears, and finding people who love you for you. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

James uses his imagination to survive scary situations. He's courageous in the face of great difficulties. Characters learn and demonbstrate curiosity, empathy, and teamwork.

Violence & Scariness

Scary situations in which James' parents die; James' aunts threaten to beat him. Some frightening characters -- including a many-toothed shark. Many perilous scenes in which key characters are almost killed.

Sexy Stuff

Flirtation between the Centipede and the Spider.

Language

A use of "ass." A character says, "Holy shipwreck!" pausing so that it almost sounds like "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in this adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic story, James and the Giant Peach, young James both loses his parents and is forced to live as a servant to abusive relatives. James risks his life in a trip across the ocean, and there's one particularly scary encounter with a toothy shark. The movie may inspire kids to build little hot air balloons with candles, as James does, and it may encourage bug-phobic kids to become even more enamored of their insect friends. It offers positive messages about friendship, acceptance, and facing your fears and has a strong role model in James, who's courageous in the face of difficulty.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymamarx2 April 9, 2008

I left the room...

This movie is crazy. My mother bought it for my kids, and the oldest left the room and my youngest had nightmares that night. The violent tendencies of the tw... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 year old Written bymikeisawesome123 February 2, 2011

Great Kids Movie!!!!!!!

I love this movie. It is great for kids. A lot of frightening situations. One use of ass. The centipede is usually scene smoking an object that looks like a cig...
Teen, 13 years old Written byliligirl123 May 17, 2010

Good Movie

It was an over-all good movie, and really good. If your child is easily scared, you should not watch this, due to some "scary" creatures.
Teen, 15 years old Written byarthur16morgana January 14, 2011
the movie is good. but when i watched the movie as a kid the insect characters scared me and as did the movie in parts.

What's the story?

In JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, James (Paul Terry) has an idyllic life with parents who imagine taking him to New York City -- until they're killed by a charging rhino coming out of a cloud. James suddenly finds himself bunking in the attic of his aunts' home. He's a servant in their home, and the two women threaten that the rhino that killed his parents will return for him if he disobeys them. They also threaten to beat him regularly. James obtains some magical crocodile tongues spiced with "the fingers of a young monkey, the gizzard of a pig, the beak of a parrot and three spoonfuls of sugar" spills them on the roots of a petrified peach tree. Soon, the tree grows a giant peach, and James discovers inside it six insects that become his family.

Is it any good?

The heart of this story is in James, with whom kids who are struggling to find independence and security within their families will identify. The insect characters are mostly loveable, and also learn lessons along the way. However, the insects also seem to come straight from central casting. There's the baffoonish Brooklyn centipede (Richard Dreyfuss), the elderly, hard-of-hearing lightning bug, the femme fatale spider (Susan Sarandon), the gentlemanly grasshopper, the twittering, lady-like lady bug, and the scaredy-cat earthworm. The Spider and centipede flirt with each other, but kids will take it as simple entertainment.

The only drawbacks in James and the Giant Peach are musical numbers that seem to only pad the short film's running time (the first is the worst, though later songs will have kids wiggling right along with the dancing characters), and animation that's unlikely to impress kids raised on Toy Story. When even Spider-Man has more realistic computer-generated graphics, kids may roll their eyes at clumsy animation scenes. One scene, in which young James has a nightmare about his aunts coming after him, resembles nothing so much as Monty Python animation on acid. James's head on a cardboard cutout of an insect? Uh, okay. But was it really necessary to throw in yet another form of animation?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about parents or family members who have left a child's life through death or divorce, and how James and the Giant Peach makes them feel.

  • How do we remember the ones we've lost? How does James find a family of friends that provide for him the love he doesn't get from his aunts?

  • What role does imagination play in James's story? How did imagination make him feel better? How do you use your imagination?

  • How do the characters in James and the Giant Peach demonstrate curiosity, teamwork, and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love fantasy

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