Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my all time favorite books as a young child. Truth be told, it still is — right along side A Wrinkle in Time and others that challenged the imagination and gave hope for something bigger, brighter, and better outside the scope of my then-limited horizon. You probably by now have heard that this classic book has been given a second shot at a screen adaptation – it came out in 2005 to generally great reviews and according to the Wiki as a pretty sizable box office smash (eighth highest grossing film that year — worldwide!)
Thus it was sort of surprising to me that the film — arguably a tour de force of sights and sounds that would be a great Blu-ray demo disc — took so long to make it out. It was equally surprising to me that it was released with very little fanfare — I mean, I didn’t hear about it on any of the newsletters and such. Heck, the Wiki doesn’t even seem to mention that it has been released on Blu-ray!
So, what’s that you say? 2011 was the 40th Anniversary of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Oh, right. That one. Yeah, I saw at Best Buy last week that there was an enormous box set out for the 1971 version, which I guess they are marketing to baby boomers and the like. It was STILL surprising to me that a film by Tim Burton, which got raves from The NY Times and Leonard Maltin, should be virtually ignored over a film that didn’t do real well initially despite having an imaginative and hit score by Anthony Newley (and a Top 10 hit single for Sammy Davis Jr. with “The Candy Man”).
I’ll go on record and say bluntly: I pretty much hate the 1971 Willy Wonka film — primarily because they changed the story line so much to the point where it really wasn’t representative of the book. Indeed — again according to the Wiki and other sources I’ve poked around on the Internets — it appears that after the making of that film, the Dahl estate would not permit the creation of a sequel or a remake unless they had total creative input and control.
I love the Tim Burton film because it adheres closely to the book, with an attention to detail that makes my inner child smile widely — from the look of Charlie’s home to the breathtaking creation of the factory sets (apparently very little CGI was used — how cool is that?) and the characters chosen for his family ( I love that they chose Liz Smith from A Private Function to be the sort of dizzy-minded Grandmother) to the spot-on choices for the other kids who get to tour the factory. Augustus Gloop is perfect as is Veruca Salt. It was brilliant updating Mike Teavee’s personna as a manic kill-centric video game junkie as opposed to only TV gangsters and the like. I also greatly preferred Johnny Depp’s brilliant and disturbing isolated man-child version of Willy Wonka as opposed to Gene Wilder’s more stoned-recluse millionaire character in the 1971 film. Depp’s put downs of the spoiled kids are just priceless; Depp really captures the essence of Wonka.
But How Does It Look?
So how’s the disc itself, you ask? Definitely worth the long wait! It looks great, and sounds positively fantastic The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is just ducky on first listen — full, and rich, bold when it needs to be and quiet at other points. It supports the positively glowing stagings Tim Burton created to bring the book to life — in 1080p, you really feel you are inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in the best ever neon-dream palette of uber-Technicolor.
Charlie and Willy’s worlds all come to life on Blu-ray Disc, from the looks-like-you-could-eat-them candy trees and grasses to the claustrophobic warmth of the Bucket’s rickety home.
The genuinely milk chocolate looking waterfall and rivers in the new movie look sooooo much better than the watery muddy river look of the 1971 version (I have been on the tour at Hershey’s factory in Pennsylvania so I know what vats of churning milk chocolate look like and Tim Burton’s chocolate rivers look like the real deal!).
Deep Roy’s stunning presentation of all of the Oompa Loompas look better than ever on the Blu-ray, from his Heavy Metal rocker version to the trippy dippy Sgt. Pepper inspired versions. Amazingly, apparently the effect of the Oompa Loompas wasn’t entirely made with digital effects — who knew? Really! For more details like this you should check out the bonus features on the disc: they have been very engaging and fun thus far, providing great insights into how this modern classic was made.
My only real nit with this Blu-ray Disc release is simply the seemingly uncaring manner in which it seems to have been put out to the public — in a standard Blu-ray box (the kind with the holes in it) and not even a slipcase or a booklet! I don’t understand this sort of treatment for a film that made big bucks at the box office. But at least the film on the disc itself looks real great, so at the end of the day that is what matters. You can’t play a booklet or a slipcase, right?
You can find Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Amazon or your favorite local retailer.