It starts going wrong for me just a little way after we meet Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka for the first time. Until then, I had been – and I remember feeling this when I saw the film on the big screen too – rapt with Tim Burton’s build up to the big reveal. I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan, loved the earlier take on the book, and still believe that Tim Burton is one of the most interesting directors working today. But Charlie And The Chocolate Factory? It never really gelled.
It seems a little harsh to throw the candy of blame at Johnny Depp too, because he gives a good performance here. But even ridding the genius of Gene Wilder from my mind, it just feels like the wrong performance. Depp’s Willy Wonka is an oddity, who benefits a little from the addition of a backstory for him, even if it takes some of the mystery of the character away. I find him neither curious nor intimidating, not intriguing or particularly engaging. He came across as an odd man who ran a sweet factory, which granted he is, yet the character doesn’t quite gel for me here. And thus, it leaves a bit of a hole at the heart of the film.
It’s not the only problem. I’ve got nothing but applause for Deep Roy’s multiple Oompa Loompas, but here they do pail in comparison to the little fellas who roamed around Gene Wilder’s factory. The kids are perfectly fine, mind, and the set design is really quite brilliant. Yet despite all the ingredients being there for an impressive take on a quite brilliant book, Burton’s film falls some way short.
I’m happy to accept I may be in a minority here, and I’ve certainly got the bruises from numerous debates over the years about it. But you pay your money, and you makes your choice. I felt distinctly disappointed when I left the cinema in 2005, and I feel no better about it now. A missed opportunity, really.
On the upside, it’s hard to grumble about the impressive high definition transfer. Such a colourful, vibrant film you’d hope would eat up a 1080p display, and the disc is certainly up to the job. The audio transfer is perfectly fine too, even if there’s little cause to crack it out when your friends want a demo of your surround sound system.
The disc is loaded with extra features, but they’ve been ported en masse over from the special edition DVD, and they’re blatantly in standard definition. They’re also seemingly holdovers from a press kit for the most part, with fairly standard featurettes taking us through adapting the book, the actors, the production design, the Oompa Loompa songs and the squirrels. There’s some previsualisation material of Augustus Gloop and Mike Teavee’s dances too, as well as a featurette devoted to Roald Dahl himself.
Despite the uncontroversial – which is fair enough – approach, though, I did find these quite interesting, and at least worthy of a spin. I also enjoyed the Tim Burton commentary track. Burton gets accused of quite dry commentaries at times, and this isn’t the evidence to refute that. But he chooses his words carefully, and happily takes us through the film, explaining his choices as he goes along. That’s fair enough, too.
The disc is then rounded off with the option of a music only track, and the film’s trailer. There’s a high-definition exclusive in-movie experience too, but it’s quite laboured. It’s good when material is on screen, and the little titbits it throws up are fun, but you’re likely to switch it off long before the end of the film.
Still, it’s a decent selection of extra features you get for your money here, and the film gets fine high definition treatment. I just wish – really – that I liked the film more…
The Movie:The Disc:
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Blu-ray is out now.