Charlie And The Chocolate Factory


Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by:John August
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly  Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor
Released: September 1, 2005
Grade: C+

Your background will influence what you make of the second cinematic adaptation of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.  I’d spoken with several people who liked the film and have read many positive reviews from both within Australia and abroad.  Unfortunately, I see Tim Burton’s version Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as an undeniable failure.  Perhaps my love for the original film (with Gene Wilder in the leading role) and my high expectations of this new film contributed to this viewpoint.

For those who haven’t been exposed to author Roald Dahl’s world, the reclusive Willy Wonka has announced to the world that he will give five children the chance to tour his chocolate factory.  It will be an historic event as no one has set foot in the factory for years.  To select the lucky kids, Wonka has hidden five precious golden tickets in his candy bars.  Wonka’s marketing team must be thrilled because the announcement left the kids of the world emptying their piggy-banks and buying and piece of Wonka candy they can get their hands on.

Charlie Bucket is a young Londoner who live is a dilapidated house with his parents and grandparents.  His father works at a toothpaste factory and their meagre income provides little more than cabbage soup each night for dinner.  The only candy bar that Charlie sees each year is the one he gets on his birthday.  With four golden tickets already claimed, Charlie finds some money in the street, walks into the nearest candy store and purchases one Wonka bar.  The unthinkable becomes reality – inside is the last golden ticket!

Tim Burton is a fantastic director who tackles unconventional material and appreciates the talent of Johnny Depp.  In all, they have worked together on three previous films (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow).  This time though, their collaboration has come to nought.

Speaking firstly of Johnny Depp, his portrayal of Willy Wonka (which many say is an imitation of Michael Jackson) did not sit well with me.  In the original film, Gene Wilder has a strange quirkiness about him that was almost scary.  Johnny Depp, perhaps trying to differentiate himself from Wilder, looks like a childish, dim-wit.  It all starts badly for Depp with a silly introduction and song on the steps of the factory.  He manages a few funny lines towards the end of the film but generally, his attempts at humour left a confused look on my face.

Now to Tim Burton and I was surprised by his heavy reliance on special effects.  Everything looks fake and plastic.  What’s with Augustus Gloop?  He looks computer generated but I guess not since there’s an actor listed in the credits.  Worst of all are the Oompa-Loopas.  Or should I say Oompa-Loopa.  There’s just one actor who plays the Oompa-Loompas (Deep Roy) and Burton has used CGI effects to multiply him.  It’s almost as annoying as their songs (which again I think are inferior to the first film).

I see this film having more appeal to kids than adults but why has the focus been taken away from Charlie?  Played nicely by Freddie Highmore, Charlie is hardly seen in the middle stages of the film.  The focus is on Johnny Depp and how many strange looks he can give.  As I’ve said though, others may see this differently and may enjoy Burton’s different spin on Dahl’s famous tale.  I did not.