Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Review: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is Tim Burton's best film in years. It's full of everything you expect from a Tim Burton film: visual splendor, subversive humor, and an overall sense of wondrous quirkiness.

Johnny Depp stars as Willy Wonka in another stellar performance. Depp plays Wonka as sort of an antisocial misfit who, in giving five lucky children a tour of his factory, has to actually interact with people. He wears purple rubber gloves, hates children touching him, and is so devoid of social norms that he sometimes has to read cards so he can find the right thing to say. He takes delight in seeing the nasty children befall their fates yet he never seems sinister. In some respects, Depp's Wonka is like a man-child, which makes perfect sense given Wonka's profession and his backstory. Depp takes a performance that could've had one note and gives it a surprising amount of depth.

Freddie Highmore's Charlie is a boy so earnest that he asks to forgo his birthday present because his family needs the money. Highmore does a pretty good job carrying the film since the story truly does revolve around Charlie. The supporting cast does a fine job as well. Apart from Deep Roy's wonderful performance(s) as the Oompa Loompas, I really enjoyed David Morris as Grandpa George, the one who doesn't go to the factory with Charlie. Even though his scenes are few, he gets in some hilarious zingers in the early parts of the film.

I loved the look of the film. The production design is top-notch. The house Charlie's family lives in looks like it somehow survived a direct hit from a hurricane but decided not to fall down. The factory is a massive industrial complex on the outside and a glorious fantasyland inside. A lot of the factory feels like a combination of modern technology and 60's design. The special effects are pretty good for the most part, although the CG was obvious in some scenes. One of my favorite sequences is when Wonka and the remaining children (and parents) tour the factory via the wonkavator.

I also liked Danny Elfman's music for the film. The Willy Wonka song is gleefully addictive. The Oompa Loompa songs span different genres and are a lot of fun. I only wish that I could hear the lyrics a little better. The music, while great, drowned out some of the vocals. Since Elfman and Burton work so well together, I think it's only a matter of time before we see either another animated musical like The Nightmare Before Christmas, a live-action musical, or even a Broadway musical from this team.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is a funny, weird, heartwarming ride and a wonderful adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel. Don't go see this film expecting anything like Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. In fact, you will enjoy it more if you try to look at it on its own merits rather than comparing it to the 1971 film. The two of them are different beasts and products of their time. Also, this new version could creep out very young children. All in all, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is a return to form for Tim Burton and will probably become a classic in its own right.


  1. Hi,there. I followed you home from Mixmania.

    Excellent review...spot on!

    Did you see the previews for the upcoming collaboration you hinted at? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0121164/

    And you are right about little ones getting disconcerted at certain junctures of the film. At the viewing we attended, there were several wee ones who were particularly freaked out by Veruca Salt's demise. Shit, I was too. ; )

  2. I was at the movie with Lu and wholeheartedly agree with all parties.

    A perverse pleasure in hearing little ones "wahhhhhhh!!!" when Veruca got hers.