Charlie and the Chocolate Factory appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only a few small problems cropped up in this mostly strong presentation.
At times, sharpness was slightly iffy. I noticed some light edge enhancement, and that occasionally made the image a bit soft, particularly in wider shots. However, those remained in the minority, as the movie normally offered detailed, distinctive visuals. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, though, and print flaws seemed absent in this clean transfer.
Once we got past the dank, dismal world of Charlie’s family and headed into Wonka’s factory, the film provided a wild, vivid palette. The movie replicated those tones with wonderful definition and life. All the different hues popped off the screen and looked terrific. Blacks were dense and tight, while low-light shots demonstrated good clarity and smoothness. Overall, this ended up as a fine image.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack that was even stronger. With all the movie’s nutty situations, it featured more than a few opportunities for a wide soundfield, and it took advantage of them. The music offered nice involvement and imaging, while effects broadened across the spectrum well. Elements were placed accurately and blended smoothly. The surrounds added a good sense of place as well as plenty of unique components to create a fine soundscape. This was an active, involving piece.
Across the board, the mix offered good quality too. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no signs of edginess or issues with intelligibility. Music was bright and vibrant, while effects came across as lively and accurate. The package included nice bass response to create a warm sound. Overall, I liked this soundtrack and thought it worked well for the movie.
As we head to the extras, we encounter one surprise: no audio commentary. Director Tim Burton has done a commentary for each of his movies other than Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks, so it’s odd that none appears for Charlie.
Most of the supplements show up on Disc Two. DVD One opens with two ads. We get a promo for the Charlie soundtrack and a preview for Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. We also get the trailer for Charlie.
When we move to DVD Two, we focus on a whole bunch of featurettes. These start with the nine-minute and 45-second Attack of the Squirrels. This and the other programs use the standard format in which they show movie clips, behind the scenes snippets, and interviews. We hear from Burton, head animal trainer Michael Alexander, supervising prop modeller Oliver Hodge, visual effects supervisor Nick Davis, animatronics and prosthetics creative supervisor Neal Scanlan, and actor Julia Winter. They chat about the challenges involved with training squirrels and how they accomplished those scenes. This includes both real and artificial animals. We see how they were taught to deal with the nuts and issues related to the attack on Veruca. The featurette maintains a light tone but digs into the subjects well. It turns into a fun and informative piece.
The DVD’s longest feature, Fantastic Mr. Dahl runs 17 minutes and 35 seconds. It includes remarks from neighbors Valerie Eaton-Griffith and Amanda Conquy, friend Brough Girling, literary agent Murray Pollinger, granddaughter Sophie Dahl, widow Felicity Dahl, illustrator Quentin Blake, publishers Liz Attenborough and Stephen Roxburgh, grandson Luke Kelly, daughters Ophelia and Tessa Dahl, doctor Sir David Wetherall, and son Theo Dahl. We also get archival notes from Roald Dahl himself. We get good notes about Dahl’s life and his work, but much of the program also focuses on others’ impressions of him. We hear about how he interacted with his kids, grandkids and others along with details about some elements of Dahl’s writings. We get some insights into Dahl’s experiences with chocolate and how those influenced his material. The show ends up as somewhat disjointed, for it doesn’t follow a logical path. Nonetheless, it includes solid information and acts as a candid look at the author.
For more filmmaking magic, we head to Becoming Oompa-Loompa. The seven-minute and 15-second featurette presents comments from Burton, Winter, Davis, Scanlan, lip-synch and vocal coach Jane Karen, composer Danny Elfman, choreographer Francesca Jaynes, visual effects producer Nikki Penny, and actor Deep Roy. As the title implies, the program shows all the work put into making Roy show up as skillions of different characters. I like the material presented here but think it’s too brief given all the complications involved. This was an ambitious process that deserved more documentation.
Under the banner “Making the Mix”, we get five separate featurettes. These start with the six-minute and 50-second Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Chocolate Dreams. It features notes from Burton, executive producer Felicity Dahl, producers Brad Grey and Richard D. Zanuck, screenwriter John August, and actors Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. The program looks at Burton’s adaptation of the story and various character, plot and tone concerns. We find a few decent details about these areas, but this piece feels a little too promotional and generic for my liking; don’t expect much depth from it.
Next comes the 10-minute and 35-second Different Faces, Different Flavors. In it, we find remarks from Roy, Felicity Dahl, Grey, Depp, Zanuck, Burton, Winter, Carter, actors AnnaSophia Robb, David Kelly, Christopher Lee, Adam Godley, Liz Smith, Noah Taylor, Eileen Essell, David Morris, Philip Wiegratz, Jordan Fry, Missi Pyle, James Fox, and Freddie Highmore. “Faces” covers casting and the work done by the actors. Occasional insights pop up here, particularly in regard to Depp’s interpretation of Wonka. Unfortunately, much of the show just praises the performers.
When we go to the seven-minute and 15-second Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Sweet Sounds, we discover information from Burton, Elfman, Roy, and Jaynes. This one focuses on the movie’s Oompa-Loompa songs and offers one of the disc’s better programs. Elfman eloquently discusses all of his challenges and gives us a nice look at his song-writing processes.
After this we find Designer Chocolate. It goes for nine minutes, 33 seconds and offers notes from Burton, Zanuck, Grey, Dahl, Smith, Depp, Robb, Carter, Fry, Winter, Highmore, production designer Alex McDowell, model unit supervisor Jose Granell, supervising art director Leslie Tomkins, director of photography Philippe Rousselot, set decorator Peter Young, costume supervisor Lindsay Pugh, and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci. “Designer” looks at the movie’s visuals, with an emphasis on its sets. We also get notes about costumes and other visual elements, but the show digs into the sets most firmly. As with some of the prior programs, it zips by too quickly and lacks the detail I’d like given the complexity of the subject. Still, it hits on the highlights and offers an entertaining view of the subject.
For the final featurette, we get Under the Wrapper. This six-minute and 55-second piece presents statements from Burton, Davis, Tomkins, McDowell, Depp, Scanlan, Robb, Penny, special effects supervisor Joss Williams, and visual effects supervisor Chas Jarrett. As you can guess from that list of participants, this one covers various effects issues. We learn about practical and visual elements used in the film. I continue with the same complaints: this show gives us a decent taste of information but needs to be longer and more detailed. It’s fine for what it is, however.
Now we head to the “Activities” area, where we start with Oompa-Loompa Dance. It offers tutorials for two different dances, both taught by Deep Roy in character. Maybe kids or drunk college students will dig this, but it did little for me.
A game called The Bad Nut forces you to don your squirrel uniform and sort nuts. It runs you through three rounds that increase in speed and complexity. Rounds one and two are simple, but round three gets a little tricky. It’s a mildly fun diversion.
Next we get The Inventing Machine. This activity requires you to combine two ingredients and then shows an Oompa-Loompa’s reaction to the taste test. It might amuse kids, but I think it gets old quickly.
Finally, we get a game called Search for the Golden Ticket. I tried this one but gave up on it quickly due to a funky interface problem. I don’t know if this is an issue with my player or it’ll be a concern for all, but I found it impossible to see the highlighted selections. This made it virtually impossible to play in any form other than at random. Life’s too short, so I quit!
At least one Easter Egg appears on DVD Two. On the “Features” page, click up from “Attack of the Squirrels”. This will highlight a “W”, so press “enter” to get a video clip. In this 90-second piece, we get a rough version of the Mike Teavee song. It combines crude computer animation and rehearsal footage of Deep Roy. It turns into a cool little snippet.
In the “beats a kick in the head” category, the package includes a set of five “limited edition” trading cards. If these are up your alley, I guess you’ll like them.
Long on visual razzle-dazzle but short in most other areas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offers a flawed adaptation of a classic work. The movie has its moments but doesn’t compare favorably with its cinematic predecessor. The DVD presents very positive picture and audio but doesn’t knock us out with its erratic collection of extras. I admired the wild look of Charlie and all its visual complexity, but the poor story-telling and general lack of charm leave it as a disappointment.
Purse-strings note: Warner Bros. has produced two separate Charlie DVDs. This review covers the two-disc “Deluxe Edition”, but there’s also a single-DVD release. The latter retails for only $1.99 less than the two-platter package. If you find a substantial discount on the one-disc version, it might be worth your while to get it since the DE’s extras aren’t all that great. However, if you see both for fairly similar prices, I’d recommend the DE, as it offers a little more buck for the two bucks.