Capsule/Summary ***½Tim Burton's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will not likely supercede the 1971 adaptation in the hearts and minds of film buffs. That being said, it does manage to provide a fresh spin on the material with a good deal of eye (wait for it...) candy illustrating the sympatico sensibilities of Burton and Dahl. It is presented on Blu-ray with the same excellent video quality as the 2006 HD DVD release and a welcome upgrade to lossless Dolby TrueHD audio. All of the extras from the HD DVD are also carried over, and they are plentiful in number and modest in depth.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Directed By: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy
| Studio: Warner Bros. |
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish,
Release Date: October 4, 2011
The Film ***½Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adapts the popular Roald Dahl novel of the same name previously filmed as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971. Freddie Highmore plays Charlie Bucket whose life of poverty living in a dilapidated house with his parents (Carter, Taylor) and four invalid grandparents is brightened when he comes into possession of one of five golden tickets to visit the mysterious chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka (Depp). Charlie attends with his Grandpa Joe who rouses himself from his bedridden existence with surprising gusto in order to make the trip. When Charlie arrives at the factory with the other five ticket holders and their parents, they find Wonka and his factory to be even more unusual than they imagined, but also surprisingly dangerous.
The 1971 film starring Gene Wilder is such a perennial favorite with regular TV airings and continuing success on home video, that there was hardly a pressing need for a contemporary remake. That being said, if the studio was going to insist on going ahead with one, they certainly identified the right director for the job. Tim Burton's visual and thematic sensibilities are a perfect match for the mix of whimsy and darkness present in almost all of Roald Dahl's children's books. While Burton took a considerable risk by re-imagining such a fondly remembered film, Johnny Depp faced an even taller task by stepping under the top hat of Willy Wonka, a role that will forever be associated with Gene Wilder's iconic performance in the 1971 film. While neither the film in general nor Depp's performance in particular managed to eclipse their predecessor, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offers a fresh take on familiar material with the requisite amount of eye candy and off-kilter but somehow still effective acting choices that one has come to expect from the many prior collaborations between Burton and Depp.
The film's greatest asset is its wildly imaginative production design. The Bucket family's dreary dilapidated disintegrating home is realized in a way that is amusing and creative while still appropriately throwing into relief the eye-popping colors of the chocolate factory and various exotic locations created for flashback sequences. The blend of CG, model, and full scale sets is not always seamless, but all elements at least appear to have been conceived from the same design philosophies.
Casting is generally solid. Depp's conception of Wonka as a Michael Jackson via Howard Hughes-style recluse with daddy issues is interesting, but when this conception of the character is mated with a back-story, the resolution of which unnecessarily prolongs the ending of the film, Burton and screenwriter John August undermine with obvious sentiment much of what made the character from the book and previous film so endearingly quirky. Since the story essentially requires that the kids and accompanying adults visiting the factory behave as broad "types", the job of the actors becomes to serve as effective foils for each other and Depp's Wonka. This is accomplished with aplomb, although it should be noted that the casting of the children is one area where Burton does little to distinguish this new adaptation from the 1971 film. The kids look and behave very much like their predecessors with only mild tweaks and updatings.
The Video ****½The video comes courtesy of a VC1 encoded 1080p presentation approximating the film's original theatrical aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. Other than an occasional hint of softness that varies slightly from scene to scene and may be an artifact of how the film was shot and rendered, the presentation is flawless. The encoding appears to be in every way identical to the previously released HD DVD, and considering how long it has been since Warner has released a title on Blu-ray disc with VC1 encoding, it is a safe bet that it is.
The Audio ****½Audio comes courtesy of lossless Dolby TrueHD track that addresses the one serious flaw of the prior HD DVD release which had no lossless encoding of the film's audio (although it did include a TrueHD encoding of the isolated score and songs). If anyone thinks that the difference between a 640kbps Dolby Digital encoding and a lossless encoding are negligible, they will be able to test that theory on this release since it offers the soundtrack audio in both "flavors". I noticed non-subtle improvements in fidelity with the lossless track, particularly during the musical sequences. Viewers should also take note that the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the default soundtrack option when the disc is played, and they will have to actively switch to the Dolby TrueHD track either through the use of an "Audio" toggle button on their remote or via the disc's menus. The mix is playful although it does not always exploit the full 5.1 sound field the way I hoped it would to immerse the viewer in the film's creatively bizarre environments. The musical production numbers spread the amusing and stylistically varied song arrangements throughout the surround field in creative ways. Alternate language Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are provided in French and Spanish.
The Extras ****All of the extras from the previously released HD DVD of the film are transferred intact. Video-based featurettes are in VC1 encoded 4:3 standard definition video letterboxed to 16:9 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound unless otherwise indicated below:
In-Movie Experience! is billed as follows: Tim Burton takes you through the mouth-watering creative process that brought this elaborate production to the screen all as you watch the movie! Truth in advertising alert: while Tim Burton does provide interview comments at various points throughout the In-Movie Experience, he hardly appears to be the viewer's guide. When the viewer selects this feature, they are greeted with a second video stream that plays over the main feature which calls itself "Television Chocolate". Content is a mix of storyboards, animatics, production art, pop-up text trivia, on camera comments from the cast and crew derived largely from the same on-set interviews used for the featurettes described below (with minimal overlap), and a lot of silly animations, random exxlamations of movie dialog, and sound bites. This feature is targeted primarily towards younger viewers, while movie buffs interested more in the nuts and bolts of the production will likely be better served (and less annoyed) by the audio commentary and featurettes offered elsewhere on the disc.
Under the Heading of Behind the Story are the following featurettes: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Chocolate Dreams (6:57) focuses on the conception of the film from the perspective of the filmmakers. On camera comments are provided by Director Tim Burton, Executive Producer Felicity Dahl, Johnny Depp ("Willy Wonka"), Producer Richard D. Zanuck, Helena Bonham Carter ("Mrs. Bucket"), Producer Brad Grey, and Screenwriter John August. Different Faces, Different Flavors (10:40) focuses on the cast of the film and the characters they played. On-camera comments are provided by AnnaSophia Robb ("Violet Beauregarde"), Christopher Lee ("Dr. Wonka"), Deep Roy ("Oompa Loompas"), Felicity Dahl, Depp, Adam Godley ("Mr. TeaVee"), Liz Smith ("Grandma Georgina"), Zanuck, Burton, David Kelly ("Grandpa Joe"), Grey, Freddie Highmore ("Charlie Bucket"), Noah Taylor ("Mr. Bucket"), Eileen Essell ("Grandma Josephine"), David Morris ("Granspa George"), Philip Wiegratz ("Augustus Gloop"), Jordan Fry ("Mike Teavee"), Missy Pyle ("Mrs. Beauregarde"), Julia Winter ("Veruca Salt"), James Fox ("Mr. Salt"),and Carter. Designer Chocolate (9:36) focuses on the design of the visual design of the film inclusive of sets, miniatures, props and costumes. Comments are provided by Production Designer Alex McDowell, Burton, Zanuck, Grey, Felicity Dahl, Model Unit Supervisor Jose Granell, Smith, Supervising Art Director Leslie Tomkins, Carter, Set Decorator Peter Young, Costume Designer Gabriella Pesucci, Costume Supervisor Lindsay Pugh, Director of Photography Philippe Rousselot, Fry, Winter, Highmore, Robb, and Depp. Under the Wrapper (6:58) focuses on the film's special visual effects both practical and digital. Comments are provided by Special Effects Supervisor Joss Williams, Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis, Burton, Tomkins, McDowell, Depp, Visual Effects Producer Nikki Penny, Visual Effects Supervisor Chas Jarrett, Robb, and Animatronics & Prosthetics Creative Supervisor Neal Scanlan, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Sweet Sounds (7:17) focuses on the film's music composed by Danny Elfman. Quite a bit of discussion is devoted to the writing and recording of the four Oompa-Loompa musical production numbers. On-camera comments are provided by Elfman, Burton, Deep Roy, and Choreographer Francesca Jaynes. Becoming Oompa-Loompa (7:17) Focuses on the methods used to have actor Deep Roy play hundred of of Oompa-Loompas in the film. It apparently involved tremendous amounts of choreography and special effects. On-camera comments are provided by Winter, Burton, Lip-Synch & Vocal Coach Jane Karen, Davis, Roy, Elfman, Jaynes, Penny, and Scanlan. Attack of the Squirrels (9:50) Looks at how the nut-sorting squirrels were realized on film. Much of the time is devoted to the inherently difficult task of training wild squirrels. The latter part of the featurette is dedicated to the animatronic and CGI squirrels that were used to augment the 50 trained squirrels. Comments are provided by Burton, Head Animal Trainer Michael Alexander, Supervising Prop Modeller Oliver Hodge, Winter, Scanlan Fantastic Mr. Dahl (17:43) provides a brief and affectionate look into the life and work of the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and numerous other popular children's novels. The featurette mixes archival footage, photographs, and talking head interviews from family, neighbors, and professional collaborators of Dahl. The material includes a generous helping of what appear to be materials from the Dahl family as well as som vintage interviews with the author himself. On-camera comments are provided by neighbor Valerie Eaton-Griffith, Granddaughter Sophie Dahl, Grandson Luke Kelly, Daughter Tessa Dahl, Wido Felicity Dahl, Illustrator Quentin Blake, Publisher Stephen Roxburgh, Friend Brough Girling, Literary Agent Murray Pollinger, Publisher Liz Attenborough, Daughter ophelia Dahl, and Doctor Sir David Wetherall. Pre-Vis: Augustus Gloop Dance (2:07) offers a CG animatic of the first big Oompa Loompa musical production number which shows how the sequence was blocked, planned, and roughly cut to the music before the actual soundstage filming and special effects work were done. Pre-Vis: Mike Teavee Dance (1:33) offers a similar break-down of the final Oompa Loompa production number from the film, mixing storyboards and animatics with video footage of actor Deep Roy and stand-ins miming to the music during rehearsals.
Under the heading of Audio are the following special features: Commentary by Tim Burton is a pretty solid effort that provides greater depth with a less varied perspective than the various featurettes. Burton is clearly very well-prepared to discuss the film, but he seems to blast through his notes quickly. His comments become much more sporadic and less informative as the viewer progresses later into the film. The commentary is made available with optional subtitles in Chinese or Korean Dolby TrueHD music-only track showcasing Danny Elfmans score and songs is exactly what its title suggests, an opportunity for the viewer to appreciate Elfman's swirly fun-house of a score as well as the impressively varied musical production numbers free of dialog and sound effects.
Under the Heading of Fun + Games is the following music video: European Club Reel (2:54 - 16:9 enhanced video) is a goofy electro-remix/mash-up of the film's songs with what appears to be an intentionally cheesy visual accompaniment. Strangely, this throwaway feature is the only video based extra that is afforded the benefit of 16:9 enhanced video.
Under the heading of Trailers is the following single feature: Theatrical Trailer (2:26) Features a surprisingly aappy narration, but otherwise represents a fair glimpse into what the film is all about.