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Warner Home Video presents
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory HD-DVD (2005)

Augustus: Would you like some chocolate?
Charlie: Sure.
Augustus: Then you should have brought some.

- Philip Wiegratz, Freddie Highmore

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: October 12, 2006

MPAA Rating: PG for quirky situations, action and mild language
Run Time: 01h:55m:42s
Release Date: October 10, 2006
UPC: 012569809260
Genre: fantasy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-A-A- B-

DVD Review

If you're going to do a remake of a beloved picture, you had better have a different take on the subject matter. Few directors have more of a different viewpoint than Tim Burton, making him a natural for the warped sensibilities of a remake of Roald Dahl's children's book. When paired once again with an equally twisted Johnny Depp, the results are surprisingly good, and in many respects it outdoes the original, retaining much of the darkness of Dahl's original.

Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) lives in a factory town with his destitute family in a ramshackle hut, dreaming of something better. When candy tycoon Willie Wonka (Depp) announces that he will open his long-closed factory to five children who find a golden ticket in a Wonka bar. Excitement runs high in the Bucket household when Charlie finds one of the five golden tickets, and he takes with him Grandpa Joe (David Kelly). The other children are gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), spoiled rich brat Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), hypercompetitive gum chewer Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb) and violent video game addict Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry). The factory proves to be a wondrous but dangerous place, as mishaps begin to befall the children as Wonka leads them through the factory.

Burton's twisted imagination brings this cautionary tale to vivid life, with the factory and surrounding town looking like a suburb of Burton's hideous Gotham City. The familial relationships help hold the characters together despite their poverty, although it makes their existence exceedingly grim. The colors are drab and the palette highly limited until the children end the factory; then the screen, as in The Wizard of Oz, erupts into riotous color (even more vivid in the HD version) that is almost overwhelming in its visual impact. The details of the factory make it seem like an operating place, even if it does seem to operate by magic. Heightening that sense of unreality are the workers of the factory, the Oompa Loompas, all of which are absolutely identical (played by Deep Roy, and voiced by Geoffrey Holder, who also serves as the narrator).

But what really makes the movie is Depp's central performance. Like a candy-making Michael Jackson, he's pasty-faced and exceptionally weird, mincing about in his purple frock coat and gloves. He is totally unable to relate to adults in any way, living a childlike existence and every now and then lapsing into totally inappropriate glee at horrible events. He's not entirely comfortable with the children either, though, often erupting into irritation that he doesn't bother to try to conceal. He provides an interesting twist on the Gene Wilder interpretation of the character. Wonka here is seemingly edgy and dangerous, but proves to have a marshmallow interior, as opposed to Wilder's seemingly avuncular and charming character that proves to be bitter and nasty at heart. The script adds a backstory to Wonka, which doesn't really work too well; Wonka is made far too human, rather than a force of nature in human shape, by the portrayal of him as a child and his difficult relationship with his father (Christopher Lee). But if you don't mind that aspect, the backstory is frequently entertaining and striking (especially the horrific braces on little Willie).

The children are surprisingly convincing, with Highmore being especially good: he's neither cloying nor exceptional, playing Charlie as an Everyboy who cares about his family. Jordan Fry is a bit over the top, but his character works well that way. Each child's comeuppance is enacted with appropriately elaborate effects, announced by a Greek chorus of Oompa Loompas in a variety of styles of song, ranging from Busby Berkeley productions to a Queen rock concert reenactment. The humor is broad and frequently quite hilarious; it has an occasionally sick edge that should appeal to youngsters. It's definitely a different take on the story, and it works well on its own merits.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film experience is faithfully rendered, with little artifacting or artificial enhancement. There's plenty of subtlety in the grim palette of the town outside the factory, which is HD's forte. The eye-popping color once the group enters the factory is overwhelming, and was too much for standard DVD. Texture and detail are excellent throughout, with plenty of clarity in the shadows.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital+ audio sounds fine in 5.1, though much of it is center-oriented. Surround activity is mostly limited to the Danny Elfman score, which comes across very well. The Oompa Loompas' songs sound terrific throughout. There are no significant issues of fidelity.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Documentaries
7 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Tim Burton
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. In-Movie Experience
  2. Music Video
  3. Previsualizations
Extras Review: The only extra exclusive to the HD DVD is the In-Movie Experience, which takes the best bits of the Burton commentary, adds a variety of fun facts and trivia, together with storyboards, previsualizations, interviews with cast members, and other materials. There are few dead spots, but there are some issues with the execution from a technical standpoint. When I attempted to change chapters in the IME, my player (firmware upgraded) completely locked up and had to be unplugged in order to operate again. This is highly annoying because, as usual, Warner refuses to allow one to switch back and forth between the IME on the fly. Furthermore, bookmarking is disabled while you're in the IME, and as usual those authoring the HD DVD have once again obnoxiously refused to enable the Resume Play flag. So you had better be prepared to sit through the In-Movie Experience, start to finish, because you likely won't be able to come back to a spot in the middle without sitting through the entire thing again. I find this disgracefully inconsiderate programming on Warner's part, and hope that they will see the error of their ways on these matters before long. This just seems downright hostile to the consumer, and won't help the format's acceptance at all.

Tim Burton contributes a commentary, although as his commentaries go, this is a pretty good one. It has a few dead spots, but he manages to talk through a number of interesting topics. As noted, however, the meat of the commentary is repeated in the IME, rendering the track somewhat superfluous. One of my favorite extras is the Isolated Music Score, and Elfman's memorable track is present here in its DD+ glory. A set of seven featurettes range from standard EPK lovefests between the actors, to a fascinating featurette on how the squirrels were trained for the nut-sorting sequence. Along the way are short featurettes about the writing of the script, production design, visual effects, creating the Oompa Loompas and writing the songs. More substantial is a 17m:41s documentary on Roald Dahl and his career, with footage of the author himself as well as others. Computer graphic previsualizations of two of the Oompa Loompa dances are here, as is a music video compilation of several of the tunes. Except for the music video and the trailer, all of these extras are in nonanamorphic widescreen, which is certainly less than optimal on an HD DVD presentation.

The extras would normally rate a B+ for substance, but I've docked them for the technical problems with the IME and the continued stubborn refusal to enable Resume Play.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Johnny Depp goes wild in the often hilarious and frequently dark adaptation of Dahl's classic book. The HD transfer is excellent, but there are some issues with the In-Movie Experience.


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