Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—Warner Brothers
When a movie is rated PG for "quirky situations," that alone should build curiosity. Throw in another perfect team-up between director Tim Burton, star Johnny Depp, and composer Danny Elfman, plus story by Roald Dahl, and you've got a visual and musical delight for young and old. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore, who starred in Finding Neverland with Depp) has lived in the shadow of the Wonka Chocolate Factory all of his short life, yearning to see inside. Willy Wonka's desire to find an heir to his empire causes him to hide golden tickets in five Wonka bars, which are sent around the world. The children who discover the tickets will be admitted entry into the factory, along with one guardian. Charlie, the fittingly pale, poor, and very kind British lad that he is, finds the last golden ticket. Along with his grandfather and the other winners, Charlie goes on a wondrous tour of the chocolate factory up the hill, learning about its secrets, including the Oompa-Loompas, the miniature muscles behind the factory.
Once the factory's doors open, Burton's visual imagination runs wild. This leads us back to those "quirky situations." You've got a cow trussed up in a harness and whipped by Oompa-Loompas to make whipped cream, squirrels rampaging over a little girl, Wonka talking jive...quirky indeed. And then there's the gray-green pallor of Willy Wonka, quirkiest of all. Burton gives us Wonka's back story—a boy with a stern dentist for a father (played by Christopher Lee), who didn't allow the boy any candy—but this doesn't explain Wonka's skin (or his American accent).
But the real stars of the movie are Deep Roy and Danny Elfman. Roy is the little person who played the part of every single Oompa-Loompa, whose musical numbers are the highlights of the production. Elfman chose different genres of music for all of the Dahl-penned songs, including blaxploitation, psychedelia, and, with the Mike Teavee song, operatic rock that's quite close to Elfman's Oingo Boingo past. The combination of Elfman singing all of the Oompa-Loompa songs (through vocal distortion) and Roy, the hardest worker in the entire production, is pure magic. The 1.85:1 anamorphic format and a very fine transfer bring the film's sparkling colors to life in a big way, and, with the Dolby EX, the awesome sound design leaps out of the speakers.
While there are no audio commentaries, special features include "Becoming Oompa-Loompa," which documents Roy's training as he learned to sing, dance, scale mountains, cut hair, and rock out. You can also learn the "Oompa-Loompa Dance" by following his steps and invent candy with "The Inventing Machine" for him to taste. While these activities are pretty fun, "The Bad Nut" and "Search for the Golden Ticket" are annoying. "Attack of the Squirrels" is an entertaining featurette on squirrel boot camp, and the BBC documentary "The Fantastic Mr. Dahl" gives us a suitably charming look at the creator of Charlie, with the help of his loving family. This DVD set also comes with a pack of five trading cards-but, alas, no golden ticket.