Monday, July 18, 2005

Movie Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Worth seeing for the Oompa Loompas, if nothing else.

Although it's probably not going to seem like it from the rest of this review, I really liked the movie.  The Oompa Loompa songs were great, the production design was incredible, the kids were all quite good (rare for me to ever say that), and I really liked the stuff with Charlie's family.

However, I did have one really big problem with the movie.  I didn't like Willy Wonka.  Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors, but I think he completely missed the mark here.  I don't think it was his fault though.  I blame Tim Burton.  For everything that he did right in the movie, he was wrong to try and stick Willy into his standard "Weird and Misunderstood Misfit from Society" starring role.  Edward Scissorhands, Pee-wee Herman, Batman, Ed Wood, etc . . .

In the book and the first movie, Wonka chose to isolate himself from society because he didn't like how greedy and nasty people were.  In this movie, Wonka chose to isolate himself from society because he didn't understand why people were so greedy and nasty.  I know, that's a pretty fine line, but it's there and it bothers me.

I guess I should fess up and say that I am a huge Gene Wilder fan (the first Willy Wonka).  In fact, I was never actually a huge fan of the first movie, except for Wilder's performance.  His acerbic wit really defined the character for me.  So, when I compare the scenes where Veruca Salt gets her goose/squirrel, Wilder's completely limp protests for her to stop seems far superior to Depp's silly fumbling for keys to go rescue her.  The first indicates a hidden malevolence, the second only indifference.  At least that's how I see it.

Which brings me to what I really like about the movie (and the first one, and the book for that matter).  I was always afraid that this movie would succumb to our PC times, but like it's predecessors, it absolutely relished in the fact that some kids are just plain rotten, and deserve to be juiced, stretched, and thrown out with the trash.  Even though this movie takes the time at the end to show that the other kids did actually survive the factory, it is made clear that they didn't learn anything from their encounter and are just as rotton as ever.

One last note.  Tim Burton must have more daddy issues than anyone else on the planet.  Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Big Fish, etc . . . In this movie I didn't really need all of the exposition/resolution surrounding Willy's father, but I didn't feel that it especially hurt the movie either.

Anyway, the Oompa Loompas, the kids, and the Chocolate Factory itself are more than enough reason to go see this movie, and despite all my griping, I actually did enjoy it as a whole.

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