{2jtab: Movie Review}

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Blu-ray Review


5 stars

Marching forward with a madcap frenzy of make-up and special effects, director Tim Burton’s imagination gets more and more far-reaching and out there.  His take on Roald’s Dahl’s famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was certainly divisive at the time; for those who later turned their backs on Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (a film I still celebrate and defend all the time in casual conversation with my friends) all signs point to here.  It was here that the love affair with Johnny Depp went too far they claim.  How could Depp’s whacked out Wonka possibly live up to Gene Wilder’s?  Why would Burton even choose this material?  There’s no way he could match the original film.  They are right.  He doesn’t match it; he surpasses it in every way.

Opening with a bit of wonderfully wicked camera shot that tracks then rides a snowstorm straight into the factory chimney from one of Wonka’s many factory smokestacks, we settle into a rich swirl of characters that are all competing to get hold of one of Wonka’s prized golden ticket; it’s reward is a chance to see inside the mysterious factory and, ultimately, own it.  Thing is, there are only five tickets.  Anyone can win and somehow, Wonka (Depp) knows exactly where his tickets are heading and who will win.  He’s a bit of an eccentric, after all.

Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore in a stunning performance) lives in a crooked house.  His family is hardworking and consistently poor.  They eat cabbage soup most nights as nothing “goes better with cabbage then cabbage” as we all know.  They also all – including the grandparents – share the same living space.  These close quarters allows for a strong sense of family and right and wrong to grow deep inside of Charlie; unmatched only by his interest in the imaginative recluse who is Wonka.  He eats his candy and tries to get one of those golden tickets, but to no avail.  Little does he know that he is, indeed, the luckiest boy in the whole wide chocolate-loving world.

One of those tickets will find him and he and Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) will get to tour the factory alongside a cast of spoiled kids - Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb), and television junkie Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry) – and their insufferable parents.  Through a remarkable series of mazes and puzzles designed specifically for each child, Wonka eliminates his contest winners one after one…until there is only child left standing.

Yet, Burton and screenwriter John August manage to pull a heavy one-two punch and tell us Wonka’s own personal story with his disapproving dentist father, Wilbur Wonka (Christopher Lee), his childhood, and the reason why he has remained an outsider even in his manufactured world that is surrounded by the sing-songy little Oompa-Loompas (Deep Roy) scurrying about.

It is reported that Dahl absolutely hated the 1971 film version of his novel.  I don’t blame him.  It’s uneven in tone and mood and has none of the heart that snapped, crackled, and popped in his book.  Burton, August, and Warner Bros went through the trenches to promise the Dahl Estate in order to secure the rights again.  What Burton promised, he delivered tenfold.  This would not be held captive by the musical formula; this would be a madhouse.

Odd is King throughout the narrative.  Depp can’t stop the narrative flashbacks whenever he stumbles over the word “parent” and is consistent in the pervasive weirdness his opening song, featuring melting dolls and puppets, so proudly suggests.  Elfman’s eerie use of strings suggests the history of parental abuse and disapproval Wonka is hiding from the world and yet we know it must be faced; there’s more to the surface gloss of this wondrous lake of chocolate and other delectable sweets.  He’s never age appropriate – talking to the kids about cannibalism in one scene – and always engagingly funny even as the story exposes the history of scars he hides.

Burton, playing the king of eloquent exaggerations, places the pasty white faces of the adults against the glossy shine of their kid’s faces and the greenish glow illuminating off Wonka’s skin with bizarre strength.  Every moment becomes a bout with managing the exaggeration; the set designs are one part Metropolis, one-part 2001: A Space Odyssey, and another part Burton’s genius and everything is filtered through the lens of his long-time cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (A River Runs Through It).  It’s a passionate play of visuals that turns the brain on and, with the strength of the songs from Elfman, the auditory senses are engaged, too.

Here’s my confession: I am a Generation Xer and Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my Willy Wonka wet dream.  There is no other.  There is none other than this one.  It is, from head to toe, a perfect film in tone and pacing.  Stylized and plotted with some great edits that perculate the dialogue and comedic beats, Burton delivers a wonderfully bizarre film that seems more perfect with each and every viewing.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for quirky situations, action and mild language.
: Tim Burton
: John August
Johnny Depp; Freddie Highmore; David Kelly; Helena Bonham Carter; Deep Roy
: Comedy | Family | Fantasy
Charlie Is lucky to be there.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Are you using the Havermax 4000 to do your sorting?"
Warner Bros. Pictures
Official Site
: www.wbshop.com/on/demandware.store
Release Date: October 4, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 11, 2011

Synopsis: Introduction to Wonka's amazing, employee-less factory. Though nobody has been in the factory for years, Wonka has decided to let five winners in.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
4 stars
5 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 4, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.77:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A

The 1080p transfer is colorful affair.  There are some artificial moments in the softening of faces and effects, yet they all add to the Wonka’s stage.  Details are crisp and the colors – looking bolder and deeper than ever seen before – are wonderfully imaginative.  The palette of colors is finally perceived with the VC-1 encode provided by Warner Bros.  There is a marvelous depth to the picture that was never there before; witness the garden of chocolate delights if you ever need proof of HD power.  Even the coolness of the “most important room in the factory” looks stunningly new and layered with marvelous colors and strong black levels.  Yet, trying to steal the picture’s marvelous thunder is the 5.1 DolbyTrueHD sound mix that carries Elfman’s score and songs.  It is a wonderful testament to surround sound and makes the lyrics – which were sometimes lost in previous mixes – loud and clear.



  • While there are recording gaps in the commentary, Burton does provide some mellow-like explanations of scenes and songs.  He doesn’t oft talk about his own material and, sometimes is very uncomfortable having to do so, but some of the anecdotes about the making of the film are fun to hear.

Special Features:

Complete with trivia and some interesting featurettes, the blu-ray disc is relatively loaded with solid supplemental material.  There are featurettes about the casting of the film, a pretty broadly-minded making of special, and a lot of material covering the special effects that grace the film with a glossy coat of sugary sweetness.  For fans of Dahl’s work, there is also a fun little vehicle that covers his writing and his influence.  The supplemental material also covers the writing of the songs and the music and, as an added bonus, shows just how deep the collaborative spirit runs between Depp and Burton.

  • Chocolate Dreams (7 min)
  • Different Faces, Different Flavors (11 min)
  • Designer Chocolate (10 min)
  • Under the Wrapper (7 min)
  • Sweet Sounds (8 min)
  • Becoming Oompa-Loompa (8 min)
  • Attack of the Squirrels (10 min)
  • Fantastic Mr. Dahl (18 min)
  • Pre-Vis Augustus Gloop Dance (2 min)
  • Pre-Vis Mike Teavee Dance (2 min)
  • Club Reel (3 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}