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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[size=2]As you can see well, I recently re-reviewed the classic [i]Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory[/i], a modern gem not to be forgotten. Now comes another adaptation of Roald Dahl's seminal novel of the same name, which is being compared to the forementioned musical. Let me tell you now: it's like comparing apples and oranges.

Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore, [i]Finding Neverland[/i]) is a boy who lives with his two sets of grandparents, mother, and father on the egde of town. The family is poor, and barely affords to put food on the table. One of the few things that makes Charlie happy is chocolate, which he can only have once a year on his birthday.He savors every morsel, but his desire remains unquenchable. Unfortunately for him, he lives near the world's greatest chocolate factory: Wonka Industries. Charlie dreams of the place, but can never hope of entering, because no one has seen anyone enter or leave the place, including it's founder, in years. Coincidently, soon thereafter, the plant's owner and propriater, Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp, [i]Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Finding Neverland[/i]), starts a contest. Five golden tickets are randomly placed into five random Wonka bars. Anyone who finds the tickets, are allowed to enter the enigmatic factory with one family member. After four tickets are found, Charlie has little hope of ever getting a ticket. One day, when walking home from school, Charlie finds a ten dollar bill in the snow, and decides to take one last chance. Magically he finds the last ticket, and enters the factory with his Grandpa Joe (James Fox), and embarks on a strange trip he won't soon forget.

This is probably the most difficult review to write, because of the complexity of the matter. I have loved every single one of director Tim Burton's films, except for the inexcusable [i]Planet of the Apes[/i], and he really has started to mature in his films. His early work was about solitary confinement and estrangement, and while this film contains elements of that, Burton is now realizing and adapting to different types of film. This film will puzzle some, please others, alienate the close-minded. I will tell you right now, if you liked Burtons previous work, you may not like his latest. This is one of the strangest films I have ever seen.

Two things first: Depp and Highmore. Highmore wowed critics and audiences alike with his Oscar-worthy performance as Peter in [i]Finding Neverland[/i], and he's equally magnificent here. Now for meat: Depp. I've loved Johnny Depp since his [i]Edward Scissorhands/Ed Wood [/i]days (both films are directed by Burton), and I'm glad he's finally getting the recognition he deserves. Here, he invents a clever, macabre, strange, isolated, fearful version of Wonka, and I almost dare to say his performance is one of his best. As much as I love the '71 film, it got many aspects of Wonka wrong. First off, Wonka is not a fun-loving person. He has been in that factory with Oompa Loompas (all played by actor Deep Roy) for a long time. He is a socially awkward person, and fears many things. One of these things are children, which never came across in '71. It does now. Instead of the children being more frightened of him (though they still are), he is more so of them. One instance is where the children first enter the factory, and they introduce themselves. When Violet says " My name is Violet Beauregarde", Wonka timidly delivers one of the film's best lines: "I don't care." When he meets Augustus, Augustus states "I love your chocolate." Wonka dryly says "I can see that." He has no regard for their feelings, and he's not afraid to show it.

Part of why Burton's direction is so fabulous, is because he pleases old fans and new. Many scenes echo his previous works. For instance, the city's architecture harkens to [i]Batman[/i]; the factory itself looks like something from [i]Edward Scissorhands[/i]; and it's performances feel much like [i]Sleepy Hollow[/i] and [i]Ed Wood.

[/i]Really, the main reason Burton's film works well are the two leads. Wonka is played beautifully, with Depp being quoted that he played it as a mix of a game show host, a bratty kid, and a bored tour guide. Some have drawn to Michael Jackson and Marilyn Manson, which I notice echoes of as well.

Another great aspect is the production design. The sets are all practical, with the only exception being the shortened Oompa Loompas (30 in.), and some small effects shots. They are more beautiful than the orignal film, focusing on dark, mysterious colors to add to the awkward mystery surrounding Wonka and the factory. Lghting is another clear highlight. Colors surounding the children are bright and vibrant, while Wonka's face is potrayed in a consistent pale blue light. This is an obvious stylistic choice. In a recent interview, Depp claimed that many stylistic choices for Wonka were his ideas. From his pale face, to his Prince Valiant haircut, to his cand-filled cane. Everything has a different feel, and it really conveys a certain air of originality.

Another plus is Danny Elfman's score (coming soon to Music Reviews), an original, more quirky take on Dahl's brilliant original lyrics. The score also echoes Elfman's previous work with his band Oingo Boingo, as well as [i]Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Batman, [/i]and most prominently, [i]The Nightmare Before Christmas.

[/i]As for the overall quality of the production, I was more than pleased. I was very unsure going into this one, considering all of the possible problems, but I was pleasently surprised. Now the question is: will the film be honored? Will people loathe the new vision? Of theses things, I am unsure. One thing I do know is that I was completely surprised and will be praising the film for a long while, and Dahl would've been extremely pleased with a darker vision, macabre humor and artful direction. Now, puns! Sweet (1!), decadent (2!), and enticing (3!). A new record.

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