As my friend and fellow Willy Wonka fan put it, comparing the new version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with the original movie from 1971 is like looking at what "The Wiz" was to "The Wizard of Oz". It's a new and unique interpretation of a timeless classic fairy tale. This new feature offers us Tim Burton's twisted perspective that attempts to bring the story closer to its darker origins as Roald Dahl first wrote it in 1964.
Burton's signature style is as recognizable as his familiar company of talent, which includes girlfriend Helna Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp, who continues to land the best characters to play in films today. Loyalists of Gene Wilders portrayal of the eccentric candy man Willy Wonka may be appalled by Johnny Depp's interpretation. Wilders Wonka was crazy but with it, the madness and mayhem having some sort of insane genius behind it. Depp's Wonka however make him seem crazy and disturbed, reacting the random circumstances that he enables in his fantastic factory.
Musically, the modern Wonka comes from a different place as well. The 1971 was a partial musical, with every other scene peppered with songs, however this time around, the songs are limited to just the Oompa Loompa scenes where Danny Elfman applies his slant to Roald Dahls original lyrics. The lavish computer generated MTV-ish numbers are populated with dozens of the same creepy middle aged actor, played by Deep Roy. The lyrical lessons are more biting and sour towards the bratty kids who won the golden tickets and the clear moral messages seen in the first are obscured by the flashy vinyl outfits and club gear.
The new dysfunctional father and son story direction that Burton felt compelled to introduce is the main aspect that throws the new Chocolate Factory out of whack. And while Christopher Lee's dentist dad character pushes all of the right buttons, the strained relationship between him and Depps Wonka is contrived, and sidetracks the story into a direction that leaves the audience wishing for more time in the Squirrel Room or the puppet infirmary instead of family therapy-land.
Interpreting a story that has been cherished by generations of fans is a risky business and this new Charlie movie will surely alienate the first films audience. However, If you can get over that this is not the sweet yet smart moral movie we grew up on in the 70's, you can appreciate the new depiction of the Wonka universe and the quirky dark humor that lines every frame.
Still hoping for a ride in the Great Glass elevator, for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
© 2005 - Purple - Air Date: 7/13/05
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
USA / UK / Austraila - 2005