Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 full movie review: From the appearance, Willy Wonka’s factory is a dark, imposing industrial edifice overshadowing rows of red-brick shops and houses — something out of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” planted in the landscape of Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times.”
It is not ugly, exactly — by now we are accustomed to seeing grandeur in this kind of architecture — but it is nonetheless forbidding. The interior, of course, is another story. This unique factory turned out to be more than just irresistible confections. As imagined by Tim Burton and his production designer, Alex McDowell, Wonka’s candyworks is itself such a confection, a place of extravagant innovation and wild indulgence where the ordinary principles of physics, chemistry and human behavior do not apply.
As you might expect in such a place, not everything quite works. The man in charge, while a stickler for detail in some ways, is also prone to letting his imagination outrun his sense of discipline or proportion. There are some interesting ideas that don’t really come off as planned and a few treats that leave behind an intriguing aftertaste. The fact that so much whimsy is contained within such somber walls lends your visit an intriguing complexity. There is pleasure, but also a bit of danger — an inkling of the sinister in the middle of abundant, lovingly manufactured delight.
By now it will be clear that I’m not really talking about Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but rather about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Burton’s wondrous and flawed new installment based on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel. I call it wondrous because, in spite of lapses and imperfections, a few of them serious, Mr. Burton’s movie succeeds in doing what far too few films aimed primarily at children even know how to attempt anymore, which is to feed — even to glut — the youthful appetite for aesthetic surprise.
The tale will be familiar to much of the moviegoers, either from the novel or from the earlier movie adaptation, directed by Mel Stuart and featuring Gene Wilder, and this familiarity has probably freed Mr. Burton to concentrate on the machinery of visual fantasy. Many of the children watching will know, more or less, what is coming (and some, like my screening companions, will keep a running tally of what is and isn’t in the book).
But when certain familiar scenes hit the screen — a room full of walnut-sorting squirrels (real ones, by the way), an Oompa-Loompa chorus line, the splendid comeuppances of Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Veruca Salt and Mike Teavee — their eyes will widen. And so will yours, since you’ve never seen anything quite like this before.
Apart from a few misguided flashbacks (which depart from both the spirit and the content of the novel), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the Burton mainstay Johnny Depp as the kiddy candy maker, acts, like Dahl’s original, in a straight line from one inspired set piece to another.
There is the chocolate room with its waterfall and edible flora, a TV laboratory that also serves as a self-contained homage to Stanley Kubrick, and certainly the Oompa-Loompas (all of them portrayed by a single actor, Deep Roy), who sing Danny Elfman’s techno show-tune notes of Dahl’s cautionary rhymes. Most of the narrative is taken up by a tour of the mysterious factory, conducted by Wonka himself, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film should be taken in a similar spirit, as an excursion through the prodigious, slightly scary mind of an obsessive inventor.
Of course, Mr. Burton’s world, for all its weirdness, is by now a familiar place. Lately, though, it hasn’t been as much fun to visit as it used to be. His recent films — “Sleepy Hollow,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Big Fish” — have seemed at once overwrought and curiously inert, lacking the cleverness of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and “Mars Attacks!” or the grim expressionism of “Batman” and “Edward Scissorhands.” But in this case, the original material appears to have reawakened the director’s imagination, as he has found both Dahl and his most well-known creation to be kindred spirits.
The secret of Dahl’s charm, and Wonka’s, is that neither one seems to be an entirely nice person. Or, more likely, neither has much use for the condescending sweetness that some adults use in the thought that kids will mistake it for niceness. Dahl’s sensibility was gleefully punitive; he was a scourge of bullies, brats and scolds, and a champion of unfussy decency against all manner of beastliness.
The four kids alongside little Charlie Bucket who win ticket to enter Wonka’s factory are extremely awful embodiments of ordinary vices, and Mr. Burton and the screenwriter, John August (who also wrote the script for “Big Fish”), have brought their awfulness discreetly up to date.
Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb) is not simply an obsessive gum chewer, but a cold-blood, competitive power-pixie with a matching mom and shelves full of trophies back in her suburban Atlanta home. Mike Teavee’s antisocial tendencies, fed by the television Dahl loathed, have been compounded by video games. Far from a couch potato, the kid (portrayed by Jordan Fry) is a sociopathic embodiment of the currently voguish theory that such thing makes kids smarter.
Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) is still a glutton, of course, and Veruca Salt (Julia Winter) a spoiled rich girl. For his part, Charlie (Freddie Highmore, who also featured in “Finding Neverland” next to Johnny Depp) is an offspring of picturesque poverty. His home, with its caved-in roof and single room dominated by a bed full of grandparents (including the marvelous Irish actor David Kelly as Grandpa Joe), are as true to Dahl’s book as anything in the movie.
But most of all there is Willy Wonka, the latest — and perhaps the strangest — of Mr. Depp’s eccentric characterizations. Jack Sparrow, the louche buccaneer in Pirates of the Caribbean, put many viewers in mind of Keith Richard. There has already been some debate about possible real-life models for Wonka.
The preternaturally smooth features and high-pitched voice — as well as the fantasy kingdom into which selected children are invited — may suggest Michael Jackson. Mr. Depp, in a recent interview, has dropped the name of the Vogue editor Anna Wintour. To me, the lilting, curiously accented voice sounded like an unholy mash-up of Mr. Rogers and Truman Capote, but really, who knows? The greatest thing about this Willy Wonka, who tiptoes on the narrow boundary between whimsy and scary, is that he defies assimilation or explanation.
Or at least he should. Inexplicably, and at great risk to the integrity of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, the filmmakers have burdened him with a psychological back story pulled out of a folder in some studio filing cabinet. Why does Wonka spend his days confecting sweets? Why, in the movies these days, does anyone — artist, serial killer, superhero — do anything?
An unhappy childhood, of course. I assume that it was smart to make Wonka’s dad a crazy, sugar-hating dentist (and to cast the unmatchably dark Christopher Lee in the role), but to force a redemptive tale of father and son reconciliation onto this tale is worse than lazy; it is a betrayal of a novel that the moviemakers appear otherwise to have not only understood, but also honored. Sentimentality about family does not show primarily in Dahl’s world. Matilda, for example, the title character of another Dahl book, was more than happy to give herself up for adoption.
Luckily, though, the sumptuous, eerie look and mood of the movie make it possible to ignore this dispiriting and superfluous adherence to convention. There is simply too much pleasure to be found in Wonka’s world to get too hung up about his relationship with his dad. The actual lesson of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is that pleasure and curiosity are their own rewards. “Candy doesn’t have to have a point,” Charlie says to the skeptical Mike Teavee. “That’s why it’s candy.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is rated PG (Parental Guidance suggested). The film has some mildly suggestive humor and a few situations that may not be suitable for younger children.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Opens nationwide 2005.
Directed by Tim Burton; written by John August, based on the book by Roald Dahl; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; production designer: Alex McDowell; co-produced by Brad Grey and Richard D. Zanuck; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 116 minutes. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 film is rated PG.
WITH: Johnny Depp (Willy Wonka), Freddie Highmore (Charlie Bucket), David Kelly (Grandpa Joe), Helena Bonham Carter (Mother Bucket), Noah Taylor (Father Bucket), Missi Pyle (Mrs. Beauregarde), James Fox (Mr. Salt), Deep Roy (Oompa-Loompas), Christopher Lee (Dr. Wonka), AnnaSophia Robb, (Violet Beauregarde), Jordan Fry (Mike Teavee), Philip Wiegratz (Augustus Gloop) and Julia Winter (Veruca Salt).
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