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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 10th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) movie poster Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Theatrical Release: July 15, 2005 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Tim Burton / Writers: Roald Dahl (book), John August (screenplay)

Cast: Johnny Depp (Willy Wonka), Freddie Highmore (Charlie Bucket), David Kelly (Grandpa Joe), Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Bucket), Noah Taylor (Mr. Bucket), Missi Pyle (Mrs. Beauregarde), James Fox (Mr. Salt), Deep Roy (Oompa Loompas), Christopher Lee (Dr. Wilbur Wonka), Adam Godley (Mr. Teavee), Franziska Troegner (Mrs. Gloop), AnnaSophia Robb (Violet Beauregarde), Julia Winter (Veruca Salt), Jordan Fry (Mike Teavee), Philip Wiegratz (Augustus Gloop), Blair Dunlop (Little Willy Wonka), Liz Smith (Grandma Georgina), Eileen Essell (Grandma Josephine), David Morris (Grandpa George), Geoffrey Holder (Narrator)

Buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from Amazon.com:
10th Anniversary Blu-ray DVD Original Blu-ray / Triple Feature Blu-ray / 4 Film Favorites: Blu-ray DVD / Instant Video

People often use the word "visionary" to describe Tim Burton. The dictionary defines the adjective as "thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom", while the noun form refers to
"a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like." Neither of those perfectly conveys what Burton is all about, since his movies typically do not take place in the future, but a fantastical alternative of our world. And though the director's films are overflowing with ideas, few of them can be considered completely original to him, since his writing credits are scarce and the movies are typically based on something, be it a Broadway musical, a gothic soap opera, a novel, or the extensive comic book universe of Batman.

Despite that, Burton is widely celebrated and appreciated for his vision. So prominent is his craft that he can turn even a relatively disappointing film into a box office hit and technical category Academy Award nominee. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) is all three of those things, having grossed over $200 million domestically, been nominated for the Costume Design Oscar, and generally let down many who are fond of the 1964 Roald Dahl book it's based on and the practically perfect 1971 feature musical Dahl himself adapted.

Burton had to know he was entering sacred territory with a remake (or reimagining, if you prefer) of a beloved classic. This was not his first film with pressure to please passionate people. Batman (1989) and its sequel had raised a variety of expectations among comic book fans and those who grew up with the campy 1960s Adam West television series, without any clear, recent model for superhero success. Burton's Batman ended up being 1989's biggest hit and planted the seeds for the superhero movie renaissance we're all currently experiencing. There was an obvious difference between Batman and Charlie, though: the former was not competing with one well-known, well-loved film but a variety of different interpretations. Perhaps Burton's 2001 remake Planet of the Apes was a better point of comparison, having similarly come a little over thirty years after an enduring original film. Most agree Burton dropped the ball on that movie. You can say history repeated itself on Charlie.

As you probably know, Charlie tells the story of an eccentric and mysterious candymaker who opens his shrouded workshop to five lucky individuals who find golden tickets hidden inside the wrappers of the candy bars they know and love. At the height of his popularity, in between the first and second Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka, inviting insurmountable comparisons to Gene Wilder's brilliant take on the character.

A genius chocolatier who closes his factory in response to competitors pinching his inventions, the protective Wonka hides the tickets at random, but four of them go to children with obvious character defects: Germany's gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), video game-obsessed Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), incessantly gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb), and the utterly spoiled Veruca Salt (Julia Winter). The fifth ticket goes to Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), a good-hearted boy living in poverty. While the other kids choose a parent to accompany them on the tour, Charlie chooses his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), a sweet elderly man who worked for Wonka long ago.

The ten lucky guests become privy to some of Wonka's secrets, like his staff of diminutive, flamboyant Oompa-Loompas (all played by Deep Roy) and patented concoctions like a chocolate river and everlasting gobstoppers.

It's certainly possible to come away preferring Charlie to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The two most obvious reasons would be if you grew up with the Burton/Depp version or if you really like Dahl's text and appreciate how in some ways Burton and screenwriter John August (who also worked on Big Fish, Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, and Dark Shadows for the director) stays truer to it, like having Danny Elfman use Dahl's own verses for the Oompa-Loompas' various songs.

I don't know what to tell you if you don't see the value added by the original songs created for the 1971 movie by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. That the lot of tunes including "Pure Imagination",
"(I've Got a) Golden Ticket", and "The Candy Man" could go entirely unrecognized by the Oscars endures as a mystery, as are the facts that Willy Wonka only competed for two awards and was generally not loved by critics. Also surprising and perplexing is that Charlie drew pretty solid reviews from critics, who aren't always easily won over by Burton's whimsical brand of fantasy.

To call Burton's adaptation of the book more faithful requires overlooking some unnecessary touches, like the addition of a running backstory revealing Wonka to be the unhappy, headgear-burdened child of a candy-forbidding dentist (Christopher Lee). These scattered flashbacks stick out like a sore thumb and yet they're among the few things this movie does without a direct counterpart in the 1971 movie. (Give me Slugworth any day.)

Depp's performance does greatly pale when considered next to Wilder's. Along with the Pirates saga that has clearly outstayed its welcome, this movie and its rampant commercial success must have been factors for the once widely heralded actor's career taking the disagreeable turn it has. Whereas Wilder brought wit, an unpredictable emotional range, and an endless fountain of highbrow quotations, Depp provides really white teeth, pallid skin, and an androgynous hairdo and voice. It's the least interesting type of weird. Growing up watching the Charlie DVD on repeat is not a valid excuse for not taking the chance to discover the genius in Wilder's tour-de-force performance and the humorous, heartwarming movie that houses it.

This week, the home video arm of Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio that has employed Burton more than any other, revisited Charlie with the new 10th Anniversary Blu-ray reviewed here.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 10th Anniversary Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English, Isolated Music), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish
Video Extras Subtitled; Commentary Subtitled in Chinese and Korean
Release Date: March 3, 2015 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Box
Still available as Blu-ray ($9.98 SRP; October 4, 2011), Triple Feature Blu-ray ($19.98 SRP; April 15, 2014) with Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride; 4 Film Favorites Blu-ray ($24.98 SRP) and DVD ($14.99 SRP; May 6, 2014); Widescreen DVD ($5.97 SRP; November 8, 2005), Full-Screen Edition DVD and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as Two-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD (November 8, 2005) and in The Tim Burton Blu-ray Collection ($59.99 SRP; September 11, 2012)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Tim Burton's films never disappoint visually and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no exception. The Blu-ray's 1.78:1 widescreen presentation provides the gray palettes Burton is known for along with the more vibrant colors the story calls for. Whether due to mastering or the film's desired hazy look, the element isn't as sharp as today's new Blu-rays are and probably could have been improved upon. But the transfer should please even tougher critics subjecting it to intense scrutiny.

The default soundtrack is plain Dolby Digital 5.1, but you'll want to choose the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for a more potent distribution of the flashy Elfman music, effects, and dialogue.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray itself is unchanged from the one released in fall 2011, which sort of explains why all the video extras
are in standard definition and most of them letterboxed within a 4:3 frame.

First up is an In-Movie Experience. Billing itself as "Television Chocolate" in a deep-voiced Oompa-Loompa's introduction, this presentation uses picture-in-picture to excerpt bonus material and showcase concept art plus pop-up graphics to display scene-specific fun facts and jokes (punctuated by obnoxious sounds) while the movie is playing. I guess if you watch the movie frequently enough, you'll welcome a new way of experiencing it. But I'm not convinced that either the children it's aimed at or the movie buffs it might enjoy will really appreciate it as intended.

Kicking off the more conventional extras that begin with a Behind the Story section is "Chocolate Dreams" (6:57), a short featurette that lets Burton, cast, and crew discuss the project in general terms, complemented by behind-the-scenes footage, concept art, and clips.

"Different Faces, Different Flavors" (10:39) runs us through the principal cast of characters and the actors who play them. Nice remarks are submitted for each actor by their castmates and key crew members.

"Designer Chocolate" (9:36) addresses topics of importance to any Tim Burton film: production and costume design. This technical-minded piece covers extravagant sets to deciding how Wonka should dress.

"Under the Wrapper" (6:58) deals with visual effects: practical ones (e.g. the chocolate river), CG ones added in post-production, and the process of blending both types of illusions.

"Sweet Sounds" (7:17) considers Danny Elfman's song score, with Elfman speaking about the numbers, their challenges, and their assorted influences.

"Becoming Oompa-Loompa" (7:16) looks at Deep Roy's performances and the visual effects -- including, shockingly, remote-controlled animatronics! -- needed to multiply him.

"Attack of the Squirrels" (9:49) shows us how a number of real squirrels were trained for the filming of Veruca's demise. As you can imagine, the training camp footage is pretty adorable. The bits about the complementary CGI, less so.

"Fantastic Mr. Dahl" (17:42) is an excerpt from the BBC's 2005 hour-long documentary celebrating the author. It shows Dahl at work, excerpts his words, and interviews his widow, children, neighbors, and colleagues. The whole program can be found on Criterion's release of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Even this somewhat arbitrary sample has value, its licensing being a pretty unusual occurrence for a new studio film.

Pre-visualizations -- crude computer animation used to stage scenes before filming -- establish the ideas for two of the Oompa Loompa song and dance numbers: "Augustus Gloop" (2:06) and "Mike Teavee" (1:32). The latter makes use of some live-action footage of Deep Roy rocking out.

There are two alternate soundtracks with which you can enjoy the film: an audio commentary by Tim Burton and a music-only track isolating Danny Elfman's score and songs in full Dolby TrueHD 5.1.
The former, recorded in 2005, is one of many Burton tracks, while the latter is something of a rarity these days outside of specialty label Twilight Time.

A "Club Reel" (2:54) that "played all over Europe" sets psychedelic imagery from the movie (lots of Deep Roy) to the dance remix of Willy Wonka's theme song, briefly using a bouncing ball and lyrics to encourage you to sing along.

The extras conclude with Charlie's original theatrical trailer (2:26, SD), which is already dated enough to inspire some nostalgia with its narration.

The one addition of this release is an exclusive photo book. This softcover, staple-bound companion consists purely of character-based photo collages. It's kind of cool, but something that will occupy your attention for no more than a minute. Joining that book and the eco-friendly keepcase (which is updated with 10th anniversary cover art) is a new note from Tim Burton which proudly reflects on the film and its intentions. What you won't find is a code for Digital HD; that is not included here as it is in the combo packs of Warner's newest movies.

Like on Warner Blu-rays (and DVDs) of yore, playback of the movie starts right away. There isn't so much a menu as a list of bonus features. The disc resumes unfinished playback just like a DVD.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would not have disappointed so profusely if Roald Dahl's charming story had not already been turned into such a wonderful and enduring film. Try if you'd like to judge this simply as an adaptation (a measure it still fails), but it is impossible not to view Burton's movie as a wildly inferior remake of one of the most spectacular fantasy films ever made.

There is very little to justify buying this 10th anniversary Blu-ray edition over the lower-priced, more easily-found 2011 release of the exact same disc.

Buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from Amazon.com:
10th Anniversary Blu-ray / DVD / Original Blu-ray / Instant Video /
Triple Feature Blu-ray / 4 Tim Burton Film Favorites Blu-ray / 4 Tim Burton Film Favorites DVD

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Adapted from Roald Dahl: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory James and the Giant Peach Fantastic Mr. Fox Matilda
Directed by Tim Burton: Alice in Wonderland Frankenweenie Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Dark Shadows Ed Wood Big Eyes
Johnny Depp: Finding Neverland Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Rango The Lone Ranger The Tourist Transcendence
Freddie Highmore: The Spiderwick Chronicles Bates Motel: Season One | AnnaSophia Robb: Bridge to Terabithia Race to Witch Mountain Soul Surfer
Helena Bonham Carter: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 The King's Speech
Mid-Noughties Films: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Spider-Man 2 Chicken Little

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Reviewed March 4, 2015.



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