[box cover]

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Deluxe Edition

First things first: Tim Burton's 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not a remake of Mel Stuart's beloved 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Comparisons between the two adaptations of Roald Dahl's classic children's book are inescapable (and actually rather interesting), but each deserves to be judged on its own merits, since each is successful and enchanting in its own right. When rumors of a new version of Dahl's tale about poor Charlie Bucket and his Golden Ticket-worthy adventures inside the mysterious realm of enigmatic candy man Willy Wonka first started circulating, fans of the first film were rightfully skeptical. Who could possibly live up to Gene Wilder's career-defining performance as the cheerfully cracked chocolate czar? Certainly not Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, or Nicolas Cage, all of whom were in the running for the role at one time. Ultimately, Burton — who made a repeated point of saying that Dahl's book was his only inspiration — decided that Wonka's trademark frock coat and top hat were best suited to frequent collaborator Johnny Depp. And Depp, as is his wont, stepped up and made the part completely his own. Sporting a Prince Valiant bob and a pale complexion that has the greenish hue of a true shut-in, the erstwhile Captain Jack Sparrow turns Wonka into a fey, chipper, mercurial man who's really just an overgrown child himself. His high-pitched voice, clipped speech, and cockeyed enthusiasm are more reminiscent of Depp's turn as B-movie auteur Ed Wood than they are of pop star Michael Jackson (as some have suggested). Burton's most significant deviation from Dahl's book is to give Wonka a back-story that explains some of his arrested development and emotional instability; it's not really necessary — part of Wonka's appeal as a character is his mystery — but since it doesn't slow down the main action too much, it's forgivable. The rest of the plot follows the source material very closely: Sweet-natured Charlie Bucket (the talented Freddie Highmore, who also worked with Depp in Finding Neverland) lives in a rickety shack with his parents (Helena Bonham-Carter and Noah Taylor) and four grandparents in a bleakly anonymous town where the skyline is dominated by the smokestack of Wonka's factory. When the notorious recluse announces that five lucky children who find Golden Tickets he's hidden inside his chocolate bars will get to come inside for a tour, the race is on. After Charlie finds the last ticket, he and Grandpa Joe (the perfectly cast David Kelly) queue up with greedy Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), selfish Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), competitive Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb), and videogame-addicted Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry). Once they pass through the factory gates, they discover a fantastical world filled with delights (the chocolate room, Wonka's Oompa Loompas) and dangers (experimental chewing gum, a roomful of nut-testing squirrels). Burton delivers it all in style: The 1971 film was an imaginative visual treat, but effects technology has come a long way in the last three decades, and it shows (the squirrels are particularly impressive). And when digital magic meets creative, compelling storytelling — as it does here — the result is a "reimagining" that any Dahl fan should savor. One of Burton's most unusual (and rewarding) ideas was to have a single person, Deep Roy, play all of Wonka's Oompa Loompa workers. The actor is put through the paces in composer Danny Elfman's four big musical numbers, each of which is done in a different style, from Bollywood to '70s pyschedelia.

The visual tricks that went into turning one man into more than a hundred Oompa Loompas are explained in one of the many interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes on Warner's two-disc Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Deluxe Edition DVD. The first platter offers the film in a beautiful anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with strong Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio (French and Spanish 5.1 EX tracks are also available, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles) and the theatrical trailer. Disc Two houses the rest of the goodies, including featurettes detailing the work on the Oompa Loompa and squirrel sequences, as well as segments on casting, music, production design, and other special effects. Particularly nice is an 18-minute BBC documentary about Dahl, which includes interviews with his friends, neighbors, and family members (widow Felicity Dahl was an executive producer on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and endorses it wholeheartedly). Rounding out the extras are four interactive games — "Oompa-Loompa Dance," "The Bad Nut," "The Inventing Machine," and "Search for the Golden Ticket." Dual-DVD slimline keep-case with paperboard sleeve.
—Betsy Bozdech



Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page