Director Tim Burtons take on Roald Dahls classic story is undeniably more faithful to the source material than the 1975 musical retelling of the same story. His Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
is also a slightly darker, visually inventive film, and is ultimately a tasty treat that the whole family can enjoy.
Filling the coat of Willy Wonka is frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp--the pair have previously worked together on the likes of Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow--and what fun he clearly had. His Wonka is a kooky, isolated figure, extremely distrusting and clearly uncomfortable around the children who win a golden ticket to look round his factory. Burton invests time in his main character, giving him a rounded back story that pays dividends, and while some will inevitably prefer Gene Wilders edgier take on the same role all those years ago, Depp nonetheless is on strong form. The cast around him also perform well, particularly Freddie Highmore in the title role.
The story is as youll likely remember it, with five children given the chance to visit Willy Wonkas mysterious chocolate factory. And what a visual treat that factory is, bursting with colour and vibrancy. Along the way, they encounter chocolate lakes, industrious squirrels and the infamous oompa loompas, and truthfully, its fun to be along for the ride.
Is it better than that aforementioned 1975 version? Actually, its just different. Each film will no doubt have its legion of fans, but the bottom line here is that Roald Dahls classic has provided the source for an enjoyable, well pitched movie with plenty of rewatch value. Now if only theyd go and film Charlie & The Great Glass Elevator
Mixed reviews and creepy comparisons to Michael Jackson notwithstanding, Tim Burtons splendidly imaginative adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would almost surely meet with Roald Dahls approval. The celebrated author of darkly offbeat childrens books vehemently disapproved of 1971s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (hence the change in title), so its only fitting that Burton and his frequent star/collaborator, Johnny Depp, should have another go, infusing the enigmatic candymans tale with their own unique brand of imaginative oddity. Depps pale, androgynous Wonka led some to suspect a partial riff on that most controversial of eternal children, Michael Jackson, but Burtons film is too expansively magnificent to be so narrowly defined. While preserving Dahls morality tale on the hazards of indulgent excess, Burtons riotous explosion of color provides a wondrous setting for the lessons learned by Charlie Bucket (played by Freddie Highmore, Depps delightful costar in Finding Neverland), as he and other, less admirable children enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Wonkas 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 films underlying weirdness is exaggerated by Depps admirably risky but ultimately off-putting performance. Of course, none of this stops Burtons Charlie from being the must-own family DVD of 2005s holiday season, perhaps even for those who staunchly defend Gene Wilders portrayal of Wonka from 34 years earlier. --Jeff Shannon