Judge Ryan Keefer still wonders why so many kids would easily let a shady guy with a large scar walk up to them. Wait, it was Germany, where it's part of the business.
Our reviews of Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (published October 13th, 1999), Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (Blu-ray) Ultimate Collector's Edition (published October 30th, 2011), and Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory: Widescreen Special Edition (published December 3rd, 2001) are also available.
"Invention, my dear friends, is 93 percent perspiration, 6 percent electricity, 4 percent evaporation, and 2 percent butterscotch ripple."
Warner Brothers has a knack for bringing out much-anticipated newer release titles for the HD DVD format, but also does a fine job picking out some of their older catalog titles for showing off the next-generation format. The bright and colorful Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory makes its HD DVD debut. So let's open up the hood and see what's inside, shall we?
Facts of the Case
In this version of Roald Dahl's book, Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, Young Frankenstein) is a reclusive, eccentric figure behind the Wonka candy factory, and has decided to spring a surprise on the unsuspecting public. In his much beloved Wonka bars lay golden tickets, placed in five random candy bars, allowing the lucky winners a full tour into the Wonka factory, which has been closed to visitors for years.
The lucky winners are Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner), a rather plump German kid with a fondness for food, regardless of what type; Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen, Star Trek: Voyager), an adventurous child more fond of watching television than anything else; the overly obnoxious, yet somewhat likable Violet Beauregard (Denise Nickerson, Dark Shadows); and the very spoiled brat Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole, EastEnders). Oh, there's one more, and that's Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), who along with his Grandpa Joe, discover more than one would think goes on in the mind of Willy Wonka, and Willy is touched by the child's innocence and purity.
At least, that's how the story goes, right? I mean, it's a film that scores have seen, however I myself (gasp!) haven't been one of them. In fact, I saw the Tim Burton incarnation of the film before I saw this one, so I'll try to keep the comparing to a minimum.
You may be reading a review from the only guy who hadn't really seen the original version of Dahl's story, but that doesn't mean the film wasn't enjoyable. In fact, compared to the Depp interpretation, I found Wilder's performance fun and engaging, whereas Depp was just a little too…creepy. The kids are all nice enough, and the story is cute, but the main thing that the movie shows is its age. A lot of the tricks employed (like when Mike Teevee is shrunken down to a miniature) just look quite hinkey at this stage of the game. Despite that, the film is written with everyone in mind, kids and adults. The kids aren't insulted by the source material, and the adults can remain constantly engaged when they watch the film.
With the high-definition version of the film, the image really didn't pop out for me like other HD features have to this point. The Dolby Digital-Plus soundtrack really doesn't improve on the existing sound from the standard definition version, as surround use is virtually non-existent, but hey, at least the songs sound as clear as a bell.
Sadly, for all the joy and fond memories that many people have of the film, the supplemental material is quite barren, all things considered. "Pure Imagination" was presumably a new featurette for the "special Edition" of the standard definition version released recently, with recent interviews with Wilder, Wolper, Stuart and the kids of the film, as they recall how they got their parts and working on set with Wilder and the filmmakers. Hey, even one of the Oompa Loompas gets interviewed for a second! The production and set design of the film are discussed, and the kids (and I use the term loosely) discuss where they are now and what they are doing, and everyone discusses what they think of the film now. It's pretty much your usual "look back" at a film that apparently not a lot of people had any expectations for. The original on-set featurette has some set footage, but at four minutes, very little else can be communicated effectively. The kids reunite for a commentary that Themmen and Cole seem to conduct, and there's a lot of reminiscing on how everyone looked at the time. Everyone shares what they thought when watching it, and recall the occasional behind the scenes production story. It's long in nostalgia and short on real information, but everything is OK, all things considered.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For such a well-remembered movie, there are not too many supplements that come with the disc. Maybe it's because there were low expectations for the movie when it came out, but I was expecting something a little more well-rounded and complete.
Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory is a fun and harmless film that kids of all ages will heartily enjoy. However when it comes to HD DVDs, it's not high up on my list of reference quality material. For those of you with the hard to come by player, you might want to pass on this one.
A quick and robust not guilty for the filmmakers and their product. Now get them flushed out of the pipe before they get to the boiling room.
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