So I finally saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I remember being excited when it was first announced this movie was being made again. It would be unfair to compare this movie to the one made in 1971 with Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka. I take the newer version as more faithful to the book and a re-interpretation of the book and not merely a remake of the older movie version.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a weird chocolate factory owner, Willy Wonka, who sends out five golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars. Five kids find them, which include Charlie, and they are led inside the factory. One by one, each kid is eliminated and soon Charlie is left with his “prize.” (For detailed synopsis, you can refer to my older post.)
I, for one, have a special affection for this story by Roald Dahl, who wrote among others BFG, The Witches, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach. I also enjoyed reading his Tales of the Unexpected. Dahl’s stories have always been different, wild and extremely imaginative, bordering on fantastical. With Tim Burton as the director, I expected this movie to play a lot with your visual senses. Burton has directed Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish and Batman. His movies have always been fantasy-type and visually rich, with a bit of weird-ness thrown in. Johnny Depp, who plays Willy Wonka, has worked with Burton on four movies. Freddie Highmore, who plays Charlie, worked with Depp on Finding Neverland, which explains for the great chemistry between Willy Wonka and Charlie.
This movie may be mistaken as a pure kiddie movie, but I think adults can enjoy it as much. This movie was like a commentary on the social fabric of our society today. Each of the kids represented a section of the society. Augustus Gloop represents the alarming obesity conditions in kids. Violet Beuaragarde represents the over-competitiveness in small children. Veruca Salt represents the Paris Hiltons of this world. Mike Teavee represents those kids hooked onto television and violent video games. Charlie himself represents, what I would think be a minority, the selfless, near-saint-like kid, who values the family values more than the materialism.
This movie was also internationalized, which the book did not have. We have an anecdote of an Indian prince who wanted a palace made out of chocolate. We see Wonka chocolate bars being exported to Tokyo, London and Cairo. We see chocolates being sold in Japan, Germany and Morocco. When the first flyer is put up in the town, you see Sikhs, Asians, Chinese and others gathering to see the post. There were also so many in-jokes, or references to other movies: namely Psycho and 2001: Space Odyssey. At one point, it almost bordered on near scary as we see one kid being dumped into an incinerator (which we are told is filled with three weeks of trash). It’s venturing beyond the realm of a kiddie movie, as we see another being inflated and yet another being stretched paper thin.
The oompa-loompah, who were depicted correctly here, was played by one Indian actor, who was then digitally cloned to represents 100s others. The older movie had green and orange colored oompah-loompah and seemed scarier. In the new on, this Indian actor plays a jungle chef, newscaster, rock-star and also Doris, the female secretary. The songs he sang were of different styles: bollywood, hippie, funk and rock. I remember the songs in the older version, which may seem tame to the newer version, being more meaningful lyrics wise.
There were some extra scenes, which I personally felt slowed down the pace of the movie. These included the flashbacks to reveal more of Wonka’s childhood and his dentist-father, played by Christopher Lee. It dragged the movie down, as we would leave the excitement of the factory to flashbacks. This movie also ventured beyond the elevator “up and out” scene in the book in order to create a fuller story, with the basic theme of how a family support system is integral, which I think will speak to the people in the West as they see their family structure breakdown.
There were some great scenes with Charlie and his two sets of grandparents. The chocolate factory was very imaginatively designed. The Chocolate River set was stupendous. The boat ride in the disco-lit tunnel was amazing. The squirrel, which were all trained, cracking nuts was amazingly done. The glass elevator was fitted with jet engines. There were definitely more pluses than minuses (one glaring problem I had was the reaction of parents while their kids were being eliminated- Why didn’t Veruca’s dad climb over the railing to save her daughter? Why didn’t Augustus’ mom shriek in terror when her son was being sucked into the pipe?)
Depp did a wonderful job acting as Willy Wonka. (Any notion of him being Michael Jackson with that make-up inviting kids into his factory should be dispelled!) He for sure has displayed his versatility (remember The Pirates of the Caribbean?). Charlie brought a lot of innocence, maturity and almost angelic-like into his character. I mean, we know Charlie will be the last one to get the ticket, but after two failed attempts, when he finally does get the ticket, we feel as emotional as he does. The other kids also acted above average. Charlie’s grandparents did a good job too.
In summary, keeping in mind that this movie is coming from the Burton-Depp camp, we can expect to see a weird- fantastical experience into the chocolate factory, all the while learning more about Willy Wonka. A sweet-filled, dee-licious journey that drums home the fact that at the end of day, it is your family that will love and support you the most.
4.5 out of 5.