Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Reviews
Comparisons were obviously going to be drawn between this and the 1971 adaptation, starring Gene Wilder. The first version made several changes from the book (like making the Oompa Loompas orange rather than pygmies) and was famously disowned by Roald Dahl himself. This version remained in development hell for over a decade while various directors, screenplays and leading men were presented to the Dahl estate, and all of them were refused.
It's therefore a given that, with the Dahl estate on board, this adaptation is the closest possible to the original story. Fans of the book will revel in the casting of the child actors, and Freddie Highmore in particular, who are well-accomplished and seem born to play their characters. Some liberties are taken of course, but unlike the earlier version, they by and large compliment the narrative. The dark back-story, with Willy Wonka's father being a dentist who forbids him from eating chocolate, works because it broadens out the character of Wonka. It prevents him from being just another English eccentric, and with the new denouement of the film, we actually start to sympathise with him rather than simply finding him a little freaky.
When it comes to Wonka himself, there is no-one better to play him than Johnny Depp. For all of Wilder's charm and comic ability, Depp manages to tap into the nub of Wonka's demons, vocalising them in that voice which is alternately jittery and flamboyant, and in a physical manner which is both creepy and charming. Comparisons with Michael Jackson, however, are barking up the wrong tree; Depp's portrayal is by his own admission closer in character to that of Howard Hughes. His Wonka, like Hughes, is a man with a singular love, a love to which he has dedicated his life and which threatens to consume him now he is ageing.
There are fine performances through the rest of the adult cast. Noah Taylor, still most famous for his cameo in Vanilla Sky, is convincing as Charlie's father, while Helena Bonham Carter is reigned in by her fiancée to give a subtle turn as the mother. David Kelly and Liz Smith are entertaining as two of the grandparents, and Missi Pyle is the most interesting (and appealing) of the spoilt children's parents. And of course, one must not overlook the deadpan Deep Roy as every single one of the Oompa-Loompas.
If there is a flaw with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it is that there is so much visual delight, so much going on on the surface, that the viewer may start to grow suspicious that there is nothing underneath. The rich and camp colour scheme - which make the factory look like the Joker's lair - is so overpowering that it threatens to obscure the moral points of the film. Burton is therefore wise to include enough scenes and snippets of dialogue to bolster the film's warnings against excess and selfishness. Whether in the invasion of the stores to find the golden tickets, or the piquant one-liners emanating from the children, this film has its eyes on the prize - so much so that we even forgive Burton for the highly sentimental last line.
The only other flaw with this film is the songs. Burton's close relationship with Danny Elfman has led some critics to believe that all of his films are essentially musicals. Sure enough, Elfman serves up another captivating score over the excellent opening credits. But the puppet scene upon entering the factory grounds manages to be downright toe-curling. And while the Oompa-Loompas sing lyrics written by Dahl himself, they are produced and processed in such a way that we cannot understand them. It's like dressing the Teletubbies in bondage gear and watching them through a kaleidoscope.
For all these little flaws, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remains one of Burton's best films. Like Batman Returns and Sleepy Hollow before it, the niggling little flaws in either the script or the execution of certain scenes are more than compensated for by the overall quality. The result is a visual delight with a deep moral root, a charming children's story which marries the darkness of Dahl's original to the gothic majesty that Burton has been honing since Beetlejuice. On first viewing, the visuals and altered ending may throw you off. But by persevering, and revisiting, disappointment can be avoided.
However, the British accents referring to 'candy' grates massively: please choose one or the other.
There is a lot of hate for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and really for no reason, except that to quote every adult over the age of 35. "It is nowhere near the original. This should never have been made. Cry me a river. Who cares that Burton remade a classic? We act like if someone remakes a classic, it somehow takes something away from the original. Like Gus Van Sant's Psycho, which isn't a good movie. But people act like Van Sant should be hung for remaking Psycho. Who cares? If you don't like the idea of a remake of Chocolate Factory, go watch the original and shut the fuck up. No one wants to hear you cry about the original being better because in reality it's not. Tim Burton's is better. I like the original too, but Burton did a great job with the remake. He made it creepier, more funny and the art direction is out of this world.
Johnny Depp kills it as Willy Wonka. Freddie Highmore is less annoying then then the kid from the original. The other four kids are done way better here. The backstory is awesome. The factory looks better. The dialogue is better. The direction is better. So the movie is superior to the first. The people who don't think it is remember going and watching it when they were 6 years old and think somehow this is cheating their childhood. Burton made a better movie, so get over it.
This isn't Burton's best movie, but it is really good. I hate to see people criticize this film because it is so good. Judge it as a single movie. Forget about the original while you are watching and you will love it. Thank you Burton and Depp for having the balls to remake a family classic.
Mike Teavee: Who wants a beard?
Willy Wonka: Well, beatniks for one, folk singers, and motorbike riders. Y'know. All those hip, jazzy, super cool, neat, keen, and groovy cats. It's in the fridge, daddy-o! Are you hip to the jive? Can you dig what I'm layin' down? I knew that you could. Slide me some skin, soul brother!
The ending scene is the best.