Mixed reviews and creepy comparisons to Michael Jackson notwithstanding, Tim Burton’s splendidly imaginative adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would almost surely meet with Roald Dahl’s approval. The celebrated author of darkly offbeat children’s books vehemently disapproved of 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (hence the change in title), so it’s only fitting that Burton and his frequent star/collaborator, Johnny Depp, should have another go, infusing the enigmatic candyman’s tale with their own unique brand of imaginative oddity. Depp’s pale, androgynous Wonka led some to suspect a partial riff on that most controversial of eternal children, Michael Jackson, but Burton’s film is too expansively magnificent to be so narrowly defined. While preserving Dahl’s morality tale on the hazards of indulgent excess, Burton’s riotous explosion of color provides a wondrous setting for the lessons learned by Charlie Bucket (played by Freddie Highmore, Depp’s delightful costar in Finding Neverland), as he and other, less admirable children enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Wonka’s confectionary wonderland. Elaborate visual effects make this an eye-candy overdose (including digitally multiplied Oompa-Loompas, all played by diminutive actor Deep Roy), and the film’s underlying weirdness is exaggerated by Depp’s admirably risky but ultimately off-putting performance. Of course, none of this stops Burton’s Charlie from being the must-own family DVD of 2005’s holiday season, perhaps even for those who staunchly defend Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Wonka from 34 years earlier. –Jeff Shannon
The second disc is filled with a number of distinctive featurettes. The likely crowd-pleaser in most households is ”Attack of the Squirrels,” which recounts how those fuzzy little creatures (a combination of hard-to-train live animals, animatronics, and computer graphics) can be ornery in their own right. ”The Fantastic Mr. Dahl” is a 17-minute look at author Roald Dahl through vintage footage and new interviews with family, friends, and colleagues. ”Becoming Oompa-Loompa” follows Deep Roy as he is filmed over and over again through his dance steps and music performances.
Roy is a constant throughout the kids’ activities as well. You can follow him to learn two different dance steps ”Augustus Gloop” and ”Violet Beauregarde,” and make him taste weird candy inventions in a simple game. ”Search for the Golden Ticket” is a five-part challenge that tests your remote-control fingers, your deductive abilities, or your luck. Finally, if you just want basic behind-the-scenes information, ”Making the Mix” is a collection of featurettes (around 40 minutes total) covering the film’s casting, music, production design, and special effects. –David Horiuchi