Thursday, December 08, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I remember the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film quite vividly. I thought Willy Wonka was really strange. I had no idea.

In the 2005 version, Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka is stranger-than-strange, much more over the top than Gene Wilder's vision. Wilder's chocolatier was majestic, perfect, a Brit dressed as an Edwardian gentleman, possessing a sardonic sense of humor as the children meet their fates. Johnny's is the child who never grew up, dressed in a weird mixture of Michael Jackson styles. He laughs to himself, but we never get the joke.

Roald Dahl's surreal story is unveiled in the newest version much more fully. However, something happens along the way. This is a short story, and so we surmise that director Tim Burton felt he had to pad the movie to make its full-length requirement. As a result, we get a movie that's a mishmash of several themes and visuals, most of which don't work. The musical portion is silly. The psychedelics are tiresome. The Oompah-Loompahs are not only uninteresting, they're creepy. The children are merely an afterthought in the movie, while their stories should be center stage. There is very little charm in this movie, except for the little boy Charlie. However, Charlie is thrown to the sharks here, and is mostly invisible until the end, when the moral story is revealed.

The best thing about the 2005 version is that you see the backstory of how Willy Wonka became who and what he is. We get to see him in this version as a young man, as he's shown leaving his father, a dentist (the wonderful Christopher Lee), in search of making candy. He becomes world famous, his candies sought by children around the globe, until one day, he opens his factory to five kids who find his golden tickets, each hidden inside his chocolate bars. You get to see the kids' lives before the golden ticket changes them, and a rich confection that is Charlie's family, wonderful British actors who shine. Oh, and there's a neat scene with animatronic squirrels that attack a little girl because she -- well, because she's bad. Most of the kids are, except for Charlie. And the real difference is, you get to find out why Willy Wonka planted those tickets after all.

But that's not enough to rescue this stilllife movie. And the ending is simply unfathomable, leaping from Charlie's visit with his father to the next scene with Charlie's family.

We love chocolate. But we don't love this movie, a bittersweet, nutty nougat that's best left in the wrapper. Thumb's down.


Post a Comment

<< Home