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Vince Reports in on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Published July 18, 2005 in Movie Reviews
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of Warner Bros
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Johnny Depp is Willy Wonka
Hangovers suck. That initial shock of pain you get when opening your eyes for the first time after a long night of drinking is the worst. It's the last thing you're thinking about when you're pounding your 12th beer at 2:30am, but why do you care…'re on top of the world and nothing can take you down. If only you can keep that feeling going onto the next day (well technically you can, but you'd have to look forward to a lengthy stay at the Betty Ford Clinic), but the universe must balance itself out and with every positive thing you get, a negative will eventually come to balance it out. After seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yesterday I can say that not only do I have a hangover from too much drinking last night, but I also have one from this roller coaster ride of a film.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Review

This is the second time Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted from Roald Dahl's book. Looking to keep the story closer to the book than the 1971 classic starring Gene Wilder, director Tim Burton brought along his muse Johnny Depp and created a darker, disturbing version (if you can believe that) than it's predecessor.

Right off the bat the first thing you are probably going to do after seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is compare it to the original film. Because they are both adapted form the same source there are going to be tons of similarities, but aside from following the basic plot line, stylistically these two movies are worlds apart. While the original was a really colorful, psychedelic experience, the new version is a lot darker and takes the psychedelic aspect to level 10. Tim Burton has been on bad streak with some of his recent films (Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow) and it looked like he had gone down the road of taking the big payday over making a unique artistic creation. I haven't been impressed with a Tim Burton film since Mars Attacks!, but I can say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely a step back in the right direction. Tim Burton has such an amazing ability to create his own universe that is part Norman Rockwell painting, part retro 70s and part twisted mind trip that can only be understood if you were on some major drugs. With this film, Burton is fully in his element here and by adding his unique visual touch what you get is a surreal visual trip that will grab your attention throughout the film. Even through the bad moments of this film you can't help, but enjoy Burton's twisted visual take. It's worth the price of admission.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Deep Roy represents all Oompa Loompas
There has been so much talk about who Johnny Depp used to inspire his performance as Willy Wonka. They made such a big deal about patterning Captain Jack Sparrow after Keith Richards that the media assumes that he did the same for Willy Wonka. The first name that came to everyone's mind after seeing him in the trailers was Michael Jackson. While there are some exterior similarities to MJ, Wonka seems more like a cross between Mr. Rogers and a character from Sesame Street than the "King of Pop". Depp is such a great actor he just disappears in whatever role he is in. He could've easily gone the cheap route and portrayed Will Wonka similar to Gene Wilder's excellent performance. But instead of copying Wilder's more flamboyant superstar take, Depp went with making Wonka a self absorbed recluse who is so out of touch with society he pretty much ignores everything around him. The roles of the 5 children chosen to enter Wonka's factory though are identical to the previous film which is not a knock at all seeing as how each child represents such a distinct personality key to the stories development.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Willy Wonka showing off his multi-directional elevator
With all the positives I keep mentioning about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there are just as many negatives that keep this film from being a classic. In trying to add a new touch to a previously made film, screenwriter John August (Big Fish) decided to include a storyline detailing the origin of Willy Wonka. While parts of it are amusing for the most part all this storyline does is slow down the flow of the film and brings it to a grinding halt. Whenever the film really starts to take off, it suddenly crashes in to a 50 foot wall called Wonka's life. The character of Willy Wonka works so much better as an enigma that there was no need to give him a background. By doing so, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory seriously suffers especially with the ending which has no point in the film other than to tie up the pointless story of Wonka's origin. Another nagging problem I had with this film was the Oompa Loompas (Deep Roy). With each child's accident the Oomppa Loompas break out into a song detailing their faults. While they are funny and entertaining at first, by the second child they become corny and very repetitive. The dance numbers are really funny, but the music (written and performed by Danny Elfman from the books songs) doesn't have the hook like the classic Oompa Loompa song from the original.

One of the coolest films visually to check out this summer, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory marks a return to coolness factor Tim Burton had been missing from his previous films. From beginning to end this film is a mind bending thrill ride, but with the great "buzz" you get from the good parts, the origin of Wonka and the repetitive Oompa Loompa songs leaves you with a nasty hangover in the end.


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Vince Palomarez
Sources: Images property of Warner Bros

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