Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Ah…the remake. It’s standard operating procedure in Hollywood these days. That’s not to say that Tinsel Town can’t churn out a few decent movies a year, but it seems that they’re looking backwards to proceed forwards. That aside, Tim Burton has once again teamed with frequent star Johnny Depp to remake a family classic – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Obviously the title has been changed from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” but the story and characters are all the same. Burton’s dark cinematic view is shown and with the story being just a bit off (and on the dark side), it gave Depp plenty of room to have fun with the eccentric Willy Wonka character. The movie is among the more popular to come around, I’m speaking of the predecessor naturally – and with Burton’s own “Batman” being re-made; it was his turn to flip through the Warner catalog and remake something. As it turns out, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was it. Did it work? Will Johnny Depp finally win an Oscar? But better yet, is it entertaining?

The answer to two of the above questions is “Yes” and I highly doubt that Depp will win an Oscar for playing Willy Wonka. Yes, he’s good but he wasn’t that good. For those that are familiar with the story, it hasn’t changed much. Willy Wonka (Depp) has decided to look for an heir to his throne and has placed five golden tickets randomly in his chocolate bars. It’s the biggest news in the world (which begs the question: what world are they living in?) and as the tickets are discovered, they make headlines. The five children are various levels on the “Brat” scale. There’s Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) whose gluttony is his way of life. Veruca Salt (Julia Winter) is the daughter of a wealthy businessman; she found her ticket because her father bought hundreds of thousands of bars. Mike TeaVee (Jordan Fry) cracked the code in the system and “only needed to buy one bar”. Violet (Annasophia Robb) is a champion gum-chewer and a self-proclaimed “winner”. This leaves us with Charlie (Freddie Highmore), the poor kid who found some money in the street and used it to buy a chocolate bar – thus gaining him entry into the contest. Ok, that aside we know what to expect. Plenty of Burton’s imagination, wacky Oompa Lumpa songs and the search for the next Willy Wonka.

Fans of the original will be very familiar with the storyline; it’s nearly identical to the original, but updated with a more unique flair. I found myself comparing the two versions and though I liked this remake, I think I still prefer the original. Gene Wilder brought certain chemistry to the Wonka role and Depp does as well, though in a different way. Depp is just peculiar enough to pull off a role like this and I’m pleased to say that it does work. I find that I’m running out of things to say here…the Oompas don’t look exactly what they looked like in the original, instead they appear to be clones of one man who portrays several roles in the movie. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will no doubt entertain, but if I had my choice – I’d stick with the original version.

Video: How does it look?

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is one of those titles that we’ve seen in the HD DVD trailers since they first came out, so it was only a matter of time before that actually happened. This movie is a visual feast for the eyes and I’m really hard-pressed to think of many other movies that might take advantage of the HD DVD format like this one. This 1.85:1 HD transfer is simply breathtaking. The movie has a very wide color palette and we see all of the rich colors in all of their beauty. Inside the factory, we have a range of the greens in the grass to the rich browns of the river. Every scene looks razor sharp and I was really trying to find something that didn’t look perfect, however I failed there. I was pretty impressed by the standard DVD, but this movie has been elevated to “HD” status meaning it’ll be next to impossible to top visually. A top notch effort here and one that still has my jaw on the ground.

Audio: How does it sound?

Warner has thrown us somewhat of a curveball here as the movie itself is presented in Dolby Digital Plus and there’s a music-only soundtrack presented in Dolby TrueHD. Huh? Ok, well for what it’s worth the Dolby Digital Plus track sounds great and Danny Elfman’s score is as rich and as active as ever. Dialogue is very clear, except for that of Deep Roy – it sounds a bit off. Surrounds offer plenty of ambiance in nearly every scene and it’s certainly a step up from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the standard DVD (though not much of a step up). The music-only track is presented in a Dolby TrueHD track that sounds so much better it’s almost maddening that we have this on the same disc! I don’t know why they couldn’t just do a TrueHD track for the movie itself, but it’s still great to hear Elfman’s score in a full TrueHD track. Elfman is one of the most talented composers out there and this really brings the track to life.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As is the case with every other HD DVD, you’ll get the best of what exists on the standard DVD format and in some cases, a bit more. Wouldn’t you know it; this is one of those cases! We begin with what existed on the previous two-disc set with “The Fantastic Mr. Dahl” in which we learn about the author, his work and pretty much all we need to know about the man. An obvious talent, his creation still lives on with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. There’s a feature on how Deep Roy, one man, was used to become every Oompa Loompa in the movie, though I’m thinking he only received one paycheck? We also get a look at squirrels. Yes, squirrels. We see how they trained the squirrels to work in this movie – quite interesting indeed. There are also the obligatory featurettes as well as some “Challenges”. The main draw on this HD DVD is the In Movie Experience, in which we get somewhat of a visual commentary. We’re also treated to some behind the scenes material as well and you add it all together and you know more about the movie than the filmmakers did. These In Movie Experiences are really very intriguing and I think that we’re just scratching the surface of what we can do with HD DVD.

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