Whichever generation you’re from I think we can all remember watching this movie as a child. I have great memories of this film, and when watching the newly released Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I found myself comparing it to these memories. Finally I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and watch it again for the first time in years, and on HD DVD what a treat, so how does it hold up after all these years?
The movie centers on a young boy named Charlie Bucket, living with his mother and bedridden…grandparents. Charlie like any child loves chocolate, so when it’s announced that the famous Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) is allowing five children to spend an entire day in his factory, he wants to win more than anyone else. There are five golden tickets placed randomly inside Wonka candy bars, they could be in any candy shop, in any town, anywhere in the world. As the days go on we find that an overweight chocolate obsessed boy in Germany named Augustus Gloop has found the first ticket. The second by a nagging spoiled brat in England named Veruca Salt. The third an overachieving competitive girl from The United States named Violet Beauregarde. The fourth is a lazy television obsessed boy named Mike Teavee, also from The United States. All hope is lost for Charlie when it is announced that the fifth ticket has been found… but that wouldn’t make for much of a movie, would it?
While walking home from school Charlie finds change sitting in the gutter. With this money he decides to buy himself and his grandpa chocolate bars, but instantaneously upon stepping out of the store a nearby crowd gossips how the fifth ticket was a fake. Very hastily Charlie opens up one of the bars to discover a golden ticket inside, but before he can react the nearby mob of people surround him appearing to want his ticket. Charlie breaks free and runs all the way home to break the news to his family; he is now ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
For me this is where the real problems with this movie begin, not that there wasn’t already a few. For example, in comparison to both the book and the Tim Burton vision, Charlie seems to be a little too sinister for my liking. To be frank, I didn’t feel much sympathy for the character, or his family. It was implied that they were a poor family, but other then the grandparents sharing a bed nothing else convinced me they were. As well, this movie pushed the idea of the world being in frenzy over a tour inside a chocolate factory too far. At one point a woman sold out her husband for a box of Wonka bars, giving us the impression that he was now to die. At this point it seemed a little more twisted than I remember for a children’s movie. I was hoping that once they entered the factory things would become a little more colorful.
Well, visually they did (I’ll get to that later) but the laughs were still few and far between. The entertainment value of the songs weren’t what I remembered, and didn’t quite match up to that of the Tim Burton film. As a child I really liked this picture, maybe because then I didn’t have another film version to compare too, and I hadn’t yet read the book. Apart from Gene Wilder’s performance as Willy Wonka, and the memorable Oompa-Loompas, I didn’t find much appealing about this film.
In the end, my childhood love of this picture was not recaptured. I found myself disappointed with the overall vibe.
Presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, early in the film I was disappointed with the transfer. There were some scenes with heavy grain, dirt and blemishes. Scenes such as these reminded me of a standard definition DVD. Of course, we have to take into account that this movie is from 1971, and considering that I was overall fairly impressed. As the movie progressed the transfer seemed to improve, especially once we entered the factory. Here colors jumped out and blended nicely. The chocolate waterfall was rich, the Oompa-Loompas have never looked so freakishly detailed, and the candy surroundings never looked so edible. From this point the film maintains fairly decent picture quality, although we later encounter some grain and softness.
In the end this is the best this film has ever looked, although not up to other HD DVD title standards.
As one might expect, this disc doesn’t support Dolby TrueHD, but rather Dolby Digital 5.1. That being said I am still rather disappointed with the audio track. The film hardly used any rear speaker capabilities, and I rarely heard a peep from my subwoofer. The dialogue was the high point of the audio, sounding very crisp and clear, the musical scenes in this film as well came alive. Overall the disc sounded fairly good, but sadly didn’t utilize the full HD DVD potential.
The features on this disc are lacking, both in quality and in quantity. I wasn’t expecting an In Movie Experience, so there was no let down there. But I was surprised with one feature, a commentary reunion with the five Wonka kids, which is definitely worth checking out.
- Pure imagination: the story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: The five Wonka kids (although now grown up), director Mel Stuart, and Gene Wilder take part in this 30 minute documentary. Past moments are re-kindled as well as plenty of never before seen footage including the construction of the factory sets.
- Mouth Watering Commentary is the commentary track I previously mentioned.
- Four Sing Along Songs: Enjoyable perhaps to children, but I had enough of the songs while watching the movie.
- Vintage Featurette: A short from 1971, featuring the making of sets and props.
- Theatrical Trailer
A feeling of nostalgia swept across me when I picked up this disc, I was pleased to watch a movie I have only regarded as a classic. As with most things in life, I didn’t find this as entertaining as I once had. Aside from being disappointed with the movie, Warner Brothers has put together a fairly decent disc. The transfer is very respectable aside from a few minor complaints. The audio wasn’t what one could expect from HD DVD, but still managed to get the job done.
Personally I was disappointed with the movie, and wouldn’t recommend it, but I’d suggest anyone who is already a fan of the movie to pick it up, as it has never looked so good.
Special Features List
- Pure imagination: the story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
- Mouth Watering Commentary
- Four Sing Along Songs
- Vintage Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer