Blu-Ray Review: ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure’

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CHICAGO – Two beloved Tim Burton films recently made their Blu-ray debuts and the once-great director has one of the most interesting visual sensibilities in the last thirty years, making his work a perfect fit for HD. Even the deeply-flawed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” looks great in HD and, well, there’s a soft spot in this critic’s heart for Pee-Wee Herman’s film debut, a comedy that has held up remarkably well in the 26 years (!!!) since its release. Both of these Blu-ray editions are pure imports with no new special features but you might want to add at least one to your collection.

Has there ever been a director with a more unusual trajectory than Tim Burton? The first half of his career was so full of ideas. It was a little boy’s sketch books brought to life in fantastic films like “Pee-Wee Big Adventure,” “Beetlejuice,” “Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood,” and even “Mars Attacks.” But then Burton stopped finding creative ways to express his own ideas and began working on others. He hasn’t worked from an original screenplay since “Ed Wood” with a string of disappointments that include “Planet of the Apes,” “Charlie,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” One hopes “Dark Shadows” fits in the first half of his filmography more than the second.

Think I’m being too harsh on latter Burton? Pick up both of these Blu-rays. There’s a timeless glee in “Pee-Wee Big Adventure.” Sure, it’s a little rusty but charmingly so. Then you take “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which far too often feels like it was made by a machine. Sure. it’s a visual treat but the heart isn’t there. I miss the childlike wonder of the early Burton and so definitely have my favorite of the two. Pick them both up and decide for yourself.

Pee-Wee Big Adventure
Pee-Wee Big Adventure
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

“Pee-Wee Big Adventure” Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

Two of the most original talents in recent decades - Pee-wee Herman and director Tim Burton - teamed on what was to be the major breakthrough in this riotously funny movie about Pee-wee’s cross-country search for his stolen bike. As Pee-wee encounters bikers, cowboys, crooks and a phantom trucker and passes through the Alamo and Warner Bros. Studios, any resistance is futile: unstoppable laughter always follows. Celebrate the one-of-a-kind magic that this mirthful, colorful, bountiful movie still packs.

Special Features:
o Commentary by Paul Reubens and Director Tim Burton
o Additional Scenes
o Production Sketches and Storyboards
o Music-Only Track with Commentary by Danny Elfman
o Theatrical Trailer

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

What wonders await you in Willy Wonka’s factory? Explore fields of soft minty sugar grass in the Chocolate Room…Sail along the Chocolate River in a pink sugar boat…Experiment with Everlasting Gobstoppers in the Inventing Room…Observe talented squirrels in the Nut Room and travel to the Television Room by a glass elevator. You’ll find a lot that’s funny, a little that’s mysterious…and an adventure as sweet as a satisfying as a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight bar. This dazzling film adapted from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore, is your Golden Ticket to a world so inventive, so imaginative, you won’t want to miss a delicious moment!

Special Features:
o In-Movie Experience with Tim Burton
o Commentary by Tim Burton
o Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: Chocolate Dreams
o Different Faces, Different Flavors
o Designer Chocolate
o Under The Wrapper
o Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: Sweet Sounds
o Becoming Oompa-Loompa: How They Turned One Man into Hundreds of Oompa-Loompas
o Attack Of The Squirrels: A Look at the Trained Nut-Sorting Squirrels
o Fantastic Mr. Dahl: A Look into the Life of Roald Dahl
o 2 Previsualizations: Augustus Gloop Dance and Mike Teavee Dance
o Dolby TrueHD Music-Only Track Showcasing Danny Elfman’s Score and Songs
o European Club Reel
o Theatrical Trailer

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure” were released on Blu-ray on October 4th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

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