Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Film review by: Witney Seibold
O.k., so it was another remake we didn’t ask for, but if you’re going to remake the Roald Dahl classic into another film (Mel Stuart did it already in the beloved-by-a-certain-age-group 1971 film), I guess it’s only fitting to hire twistmeister Tim Burton and to cast Johnny Depp (that master of the quirky role) in the role of the subtly horrifying eccentric Willy Wonka. So, thanks to the talent involved, we were saved from utter triteness, and were given something that, if not revolutionary or transcendent, is at least a passable and rather entertaining afternoon.
A few compare-and-contrast notes: The 1971 version (called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and featuring Gene Wilder) was beloved by this humble critic when he was a child. As I aged, though, certain things began to bother me: The kid who played Charlie bugged the Hell out of me. The songs grated (The Candy Man is right down there with Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head as obnoxious movie songs go). And the tale (five kids win admission to titular factory, previously sealed off for decades) began to make less and less sense the more I watched it. And Wonka’s own sweetness-that-explodes-into-fury kept me a little on edge. In the 2005 film, all of these things have been amended. Freddie Highmore, in the role of Charlie, is open-faced, fresh, and talented (in fact, all of the kids were great). The songs have been taken away, with the exception of the Oompa-Loompas’ numbers (which were in the book), and, scored by Danny Elfman, become fun and raucous (N.B. The Oompa-Loompas are all played by Deep Roy). The tale still makes little sense; the story begins as a Dickensian fable, and turns into a bizarre fantasy, but that is more Dahl’s fault than either directors’. And finally, Depp’s performance, off-balanced, asexual, child-hating, and oblivious Wonka helped hold the movie’s obviously surreal elements together.
So what’s my final word? It may be kinda unprofessional to put it in these terms (comparison, you know), but I feel I can express myself the best this way: it’s better than the original in many ways, it’s refreshingly disturbing, it’s cool to look at, and Depp is way fun. One can do worse with a remake.