Blu-ray Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (10th Anniversary Edition)

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It’s been ten years since Tim Burton’s interpretation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory raked in some $474 million worldwide. On March 3, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will commemorate the occasion with a 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray reissue. The movie holds up fairly well, boasting Burton’s trademark visual inventiveness and entertaining songs. It doesn’t supplant the 1971 original, in which Gene Wilder created the definitive version of chocolatier extraordinaire Willy Wonka. That earlier Wonka was a truly enigmatic character with a scarily sinister edge. Frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp strains mightily to craft an equally distinctive alternative, but winds up with an only moderately interesting hybrid of Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson.

Charlie 2 (380x253).jpgHaving not read the book, I only have the original film with which to compare Burton’s work. This version, of course, boasts higher tech special effects. From a visual standpoint, it’s a real marvel to take in. Everything from Charlie (Freddie Highmore) and his family’s leaning house to the endlessly inventive interior of Wonka’s factory is stunningly designed. Charlie’s search for an elusive “golden ticket,” which will grant him a one-day pass to Wonka’s recently re-opened factory, is just as compelling as it was in the original. But the new addition of Wonka’s daddy issues (his dentist father is portrayed by Christopher Lee) does the movie no favors. Knowing the psychology behind Wonka’s weirdness isn’t necessary and winds up padding the movie.

Charlie 3 (380x284).jpgThe other kids are well played, with a young AnnaSophia Robb standing out as the champion gum-chewer Violet Beauregarde. All of the Oompa-Loompas are portrayed with deadpan charm by Deep Roy. David Kelly is also winning as Charlie’s Grandpa Joe. But the original presented the children with a real temptation to resist, as Wonka rival Slugworth supposedly wanted them to smuggle a priceless recipe out of the factory. Here that espionage element is gone and Charlie is just a good-natured kid who happens to be the ‘last man standing,’ rather than the one who displays the soundest ethics. Burton’s visual inventiveness never lags, but the second half of the movie gets progressively soggier from a narrative standpoint.

The new release is a repackaging of the previously available Blu-ray, with the same transfer and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. While that may be disappointing for any Burton fans who hoped for an upgraded presentation, the technical specs are quite strong. If you don’t already own the movie on Blu-ray, it’ll be an audio/visual treat. Danny Elman’s characteristically quirky score is offered as an isolated track.

Charlie 1 (380x253).jpgThe supplemental features are the same as found on the previous edition. Again, if you (like me) didn’t own the older disc, there’s a bevy of great materials to discover here. There’s an “In-Movie Experience” that features picture-in-picture information as well as a Burton audio commentary. A string of ten featurettes totals about an hour and 20 minutes, covering a wide variety of topics. The weakest is the “Club Reel,” which is sort of a music video featuring Oompa-Loompas. The best (and lengthiest at 18 minutes) is “Fantastic Mr. Dahl,” a look at the deceased author of Charlie and Chocolate Factory.

New to this release are the print materials. The Blu-ray case is housed in a spiffy new slipcase. Inside is a 30-page, full color booklet featuring stills from the movie and a sheet of paper with a “Personal Message from Tim Burton.” It’s too bad there aren’t any new special features to mark the decade anniversary, but this edition does offer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in a somewhat fancier package.

Images: Warner Bros.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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