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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
Warner Bros. // PG // November 8, 2005
List Price: $30.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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In 10 Words or Less
Burton and Depp tread on sacred ground and succeed

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Likes: Deep Roy, Roald Dahl
Hates: Remakes of my childhood

The Movie
When I found out that Tim Burton was remaking my favorite film, it made me cringe. When I found out it wouldn't be a musical, I wasn't sure whether I was relieved or upset. When I found out Johnny Depp would don the top hat of Willy Wonka, I was just confused. When I saw the movie, I was very happy, since they created a film that could sit on my shelf alongside the Gene Wilder classic.

Though the story is essentially the same, the differences between the two films couldn't be more stark. Interestingly, the expectedly gloomy work of Tim Burton actually created a film that is actually lighter in tone and content. Burton's version is practically Disney-like in comparison, without the twisted psychedelia and ambiguous fates of the wicked children.

The adaptation obviously updates the source material, but does it in a way that works for the film, instead of against it. Mike Teavee is still an obnoxious media-driven child, but the media has been brought up to speed, whereas Violet's parent has changed from a used-car salesman to a soccer mom, maintaining the character's key element of competition. By updating the details, but not the ideas, Burton stays true to the concept and doesn't alienate older fans.

The change from a film with memorable musical moments to one in which only the Oompa-Loompas' sing, was also a smart move on Burton's part. As is the case with many Disney films, the songs act as an emotional core in the first film, and by taking them out, the easy opportunity to compare Depp's film with Wilder's is gone, and they stand as two distinctly different visions of the story.

The children feel slightly more "polished" this time around, with AnnaSophia Robb proving herself to be a worthy challenger for Dakota Fanning's child-star crown as Violet Beauregard. Unfortunately, the sense of entitlement from Veruca is somewhat weaker here, perhaps due to the weaselier Mr. Salt in the first film, or the lack of a character-defining song like "I Want it All." Either way, Veruca's a bit softer than she once was.

On the other hand, Mike Teavee is much more hardcore and Charlie is just a better actor, giving his character more emotional depth than previously seen. And as Willy Wonka, Depp takes the character in the only direction her possibly could, and that's different. A children's show host with a touch of dementia, Depp's Wonka is less aware of himself, and because of that, in some ways, he is scarier. To see someone so intelligent and powerful be so childlike is disturbing, which is exactly what this movie needed. Without the chicken-killing madness of the Wonkatania, something had to give this version it's edge. Even so, this edition is less Grimm and more fairytale like.

As expected, a large part of that is the trademark style of Tim Burton. Bringing the gothic style he is known for to the Candyland feel of the world of Wonka, Burton creates a look akin to Dr. Suess as expressed by Dali. Few directors can make the way they tell a story as important as the story being told, but Burton does it and does it well, to the point where any frame is easily identified as part of a Burton film. After watching this movie, it's hard to imagine how anyone else could have attempted such a tricky film, and succeed the way Burton did.

The DVDs
Warner Brothers has created three versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on DVD. The standard one-disc edition is available in either widescreen or full-frame, while a two-disc deluxe edition includes a widescreen version and a pack of five exclusive trading cards. The difference between the one-disc release and the deluxe version is in the extras (and the cards.) This release was written on the two-disc set, which comes in a single-width keepcase with a tray for the second disc. The case has a nice-looking holofoil slipcover.

The discs feature a very nice animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu that creates the illusion that the choices are actually moving along a chocolate-making process, surrounded by Oompa-Loompas. Among the options are play the film, select scenes, view features and adjust languages. The scene-select menus have still previews and titles for each chapter, while the language tracks include English, French and Spanish 5.1 EX audio, alongside English, French and Spanish subtitles, as well as English Closed Captioning.

The Quality
A visual fest, this film required a top-notch presentation to deliver the images Burton created. This anamorphic widescreen transfer has tremendous color, from the brilliant, bright hues of the Chocolate Room to Wonka's bold outfit. Even the subtle touches, like Wonka's hermit complexion, are presented excellently. The clarity of the transfer results in a very high level of detail, and there's not a spot of dirt or damage to be found. The only problem is in the digital effects, which are obvious at times due to the quality of the video.

Warner Brothers broke out the full Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix for Charlie..., and the sound is a great match for the visuals, combining a powerful score, subtle effects and clear dialogue for an engrossing experience. the squirrel scene is a beautiful example of this mix, as the sound of claws on the floor and bouncing nuts put the viewer in the middle of a furry swarm. The only negative comes during the Oompa-Loompa songs, which can be intelligible at times, though it was like that in theaters.

The Extras
The only extra on the first disc is the film's theatrical trailer, which I don't ever remember seeing, as it's rather lengthy, and reveals more of the movie than you should see before watching the film. Sadly, there's no Depp/Burton audio commentary here. After listening to Burton's recent tracks for the Batman anthology DVDs, it's a real disappointment to not hear his in-depth thoughts on this film.

According to information found online, the one-disc set includes two of the features found on the deluxe set. "Becoming Oompa-Loompa" is a seven-minute featurette about what it took to make Deep Roy into the multitude of workers required to staff Wonka's factory. A combination of hard work and digital magic mark this interesting look at the diminutive actor. Roy is also the center of "Oompa-Loompa Dance," an interactive activity that teaches the unique and complex dances of the Oompa-Loompas, step by step, as well as offering a DVD-remote version of the popular dancing arcade games. This is easily one of the better DVD games I've played.

Featurettes make-up the majority of the extras, starting with the bizarrely fascinating "Attack of the Squirrels," which spends nine minutes with the trained animals who sorted the nuts in the movie. The amount of effort that went into making this scene work, shows just why the original film went for geese that laid golden eggs.

The next featurette, "The Fantastic Mr. Dahl," is nearly twice as long, clocking in at 17 minutes. Made by the BBC, it focuses on Dahl's like and work, with plenty of stories from his family along with readings of his work by the same. Fans of the author should enjoy this intimate look at Dahl's personal life.

The other five featurettes, grouped under the title "Making the Mix," include 41 minutes of behind-the-scenes information, spiced up a bit with interviews with the cast and crew, including Burton, Depp and Danny Elfman. The lack of a play-all feature is slightly annoying, but the featurettes are well-produced and informative, focusing on Burton's adaptation of the original book, ("Chocolate Dreams", 7 minutes), the new kids ("Different Faces, Different Flavors", 10:39), the visual design of the film ("Designer Chocolate", 9:30), the special effects ("Under the Wrapper", 7 minutes) and Elfman's music ("Sweet Sounds", 7 minutes.)

Once the featurettes (which have optional French subtitles) are done, a slate of three more activities is available. These DVD games; "The Bad Nut," "The Inventing Machine" and "Search for the Golden Ticket," join "Oompa-Loompa Dance" as some of the best DVD-based games yet to be produced for the format's limited capabilities, especially "Search for the Golden Ticket," which has five different methods of play and an actual bonus if you win.

Pop this disc into your DVD-ROM drive and you have access to a demo of the PC game of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the film's Web site. The demo is decent, but didn't make me want to buy the game, and the Web site is the same that can be seen anywhere.

The Bottom Line
Thanks to excellent creativity from Burton, a truly original performance by Depp and an overall loyal adaptation of the source material, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the rare "re-envisioning" that stands on its own and doesn't come up short in comparison to the original. The two-disc deluxe set tells the behind-the-camera story with good depth, but with two DVD's worth of space with work with, it feels a bit slight, as much of it will best be appreciated by the younger viewers in the audience. Fans of the film will want to own this excellent presentation, even if the extras might leave you wanting more, like any good piece of candy.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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