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15 reviews, 135 user ratings

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
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by David Cornelius

"For those who don't have the 1971 film handy, this new one'll do fine."
3 stars

Most remakes are met with a sigh of surrender. When it was first announced, Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” an updating of the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” that sticks far more closely to Roald Dahl’s unforgettable children’s book than the original film ever did (even the title’s changed back to match Dahl’s), managed to get no such sigh. For even though this is the same guy that delivered the regrettable “Planet of the Apes” upgrade, we knew him better for his dark, giddy work on movies we actually liked. And we, as a public as a whole, seemed to rise up in one voice and say yeah, if anybody’s going to do it, Tim Burton would be the right guy for the job.

And he is. Burton’s vision of the world of Wonka, which so carefully balances the innocent and the sinister, is, for the most part (more on that in a bit), spot on. Working with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (“Big Fish”) and a noteworthy art direction team, “Charlie” is, no pun intended, delicious eye candy. Remember that dazzling reveal in “Willy Wonka,” where we first get to see the meadow made entirely of candy? The same scene here provides the same awe-inspiring impact. Other shots match the original film in terms of their “wow” factor, while others even manage to top them - the entire pre-factory portion of the new movie, in fact, provides an incredible fairy tale feel to the proceedings, with Charlie’s one-room house (devoid of 90 degree angles) being a work of pure wonder.

The cast is also as memorable as that of the older film (with so many changes, I’m weary of calling it the “original” film), with a fine collection of child actors filling in the roles of the five children who find the Golden Tickets and win a tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory. (That’s as much of a plot rundown as I’ll provide. Chances are pretty darn good that you’re already familiar with either the older film or the book, and any more discussion of the basic storyline would only be redundant for all of us.) Leading them all is arguably the finest young actor working in movies today: Freddie Highmore. You may remember Highmore from his touching performance in “Finding Neverland;” he also provided excellent turns in the enchanting fantasy “Five Children and It” and the underappreciated tiger drama “Two Brothers.” Here, he reunites with his “Neverland” costar Johnny Depp (Depp, it’s reported, recommended him for the role) and pretty much steals the show with his charisma. There’s something winning about Highmore’s natural charm and innocence; we like Charlie instantly because we like Highmore instantly.

At Highmore’s side is a collection of fine actors old and young. Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Philip Weigratz (newcomers all), and Annasophia Robb (“Because of Winn-Dixie”) round out the cast of children, and there’s not a sour note in the bunch - finally, we get a movie full of kids where the kids are worth watching. On the grown-ups’ side, we find Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor as Charlie’s kindly but poor parents, and the indispensable David Kelly as Charlie’s loving Grandpa Joe. Watching Kelly spring from his bed and do a jig is one of the film’s most delightful moments.

(As if this were not enough, Burton also brings in James Fox and Christopher Lee for supporting roles. Brilliant casting all around.)

And then there’s Johnny Depp. Perhaps on purpose, perhaps by chance, Depp’s turn as Willy Wonka is as far from Gene Wilder as one can get, and this fact will either make or break the movie for you - depending, I suppose, on how attached you are to the older movie. Me, I felt Wilder’s performance is the better of the two, although that’s mainly an issue with the screenplay and the material both actors are required to handle (again, more on that in a bit). On its own, Depp’s performance has its own special qualities. His Wonka is most definitely an oddball, not just in the look (with the velvet jacket and jet black Prince Valiant hairdo), but in Depp’s mannerisms. Depp turns Wonka into a gifted manchild, someone so obsessed with candy that he never lost his childish demeanor, yet someone so shut off from the rest of the world that he’s perhaps lost touch with our plane of reality.

It’s a different take on the role, to be sure, and the problem Depp may face is that for it to work, it must rely entirely on nuance - and nuance can easily be missed. If you’re willing to look for it, though, you’ll be rewarded with another of the actor’s brilliant works. Depp seems to have asked, “what would happen to a guy so mind-bogglingly brilliant if he were locked away in a fairy tale world for so long, with only candy on his mind?” The peculiar Wonka we see on screen is the result of such questions.

Better still, keep an eye on Depp’s, um, eyes. Remember how Wilder’s Wonka was an enigma, how you never what he was thinking about the trouble all those kids were causing? Depp hides this mystery under one more layer. He lets it peek through at key moments in the film, when we finally get a glance at a serious look from Depp’s Wonka, as though he’s up to something, and Veruca Salt’s disappearance into the garbage chute is all part of his plan, but there’s no telling what that plan may be. For a performance this openly outlandish, it’s a delight to see the actor put so much effort into the subtle as well.

Yet “Charlie” falls short on several occasions, most notably in its attempts to flesh out the Wonka character. Again, Wonka was designed to be a mystery. Why, then, does screenwriter John August pad the plot by giving us an overly detailed look into Wonka’s childhood? We learn that his father (Lee) was a strict dentist, and the strained relationship between the two set the tone for a general distaste for parents the world over. (He can’t even say the word “parent,” gagging any time he tries.) Was this necessary? Not at all. It merely exists in an attempt to put more oomph into the final scenes, but it’s so clunky in its execution that the entire ending winds up being too awkward to fully enjoy.

Another issue with the finale stems from the source material. (While giving nothing away to those familiar with the book or older film, I would still consider this a spoiler and therefore tell anyone who wants to avoid such things to kindly move ahead to two paragraphs down.) Watching “Charlie,” with its steady faithfulness to Dahl’s writings, it became clear to me that “Willy Wonka,” with all its wild departures from the book, was actually an improvement on the story. A quick reread of the book supported my theory: the 1971 film managed to add an extra bit of depth to the proceedings. In the film, as you recall, Charlie was chosen to inherit the factory not merely because he was the only kid not done in by misdeeds, but because he passed the final test - keeping his promise to return the gobstopper. It proved that Charlie was a good person through and through, a boy of principle who lived up to his word even when he felt he’d been cheated.

This Charlie, however, wins only by default - the screenplay even adds a new line that Wonka was going to give the factory to the “least rotten” of the five children. That’s not as promising, is it? I mean, would you rather be called the nicest, or the one that’s not as bad as the rest? This story isn’t supposed to be about the lesser of five evils. It’s supposed to be a morality tale about being good, through and through. That’s a lesson sorely missing in Burton’s update.

Which brings us - and welcome back, non-spoiled folks - to the Oompa Loompas. While I loved seeing Burton’s take on these mischievous workers (they’re all clones of actor Deep Roy; they’ve been scaled down to around two feet in height, enhancing their already otherworldly qualities), I just couldn’t get into their songs. Remember the old “Oompa Looma” songs? The ones that they sang while they came to take another bad kid away? The ones that would explain why eating so much or being a spoiled brat or watching too much TV isn’t good for you? Yeah, those were fun.

Here, they’re not so much. For starters, composer Danny Elfman (who also sings as the voice of the Oompa Loompas) tries to get too hip: one tune is a disco funk number, another a modern-surf diddy in the sound of the art rock band the Polyphonic Spree. Catchy, perhaps, but come on. Disco funk? The older movie’s music (the good stuff, not that “Cheer Up, Charlie” crap) continues to work because its style wasn’t connected to its era. That made it timeless. Here, Elfman’s going for the super-cool sound, and it’s sure to date this film far too quickly.

Worse, there’s one number - the Mike Teavee one - where half the lyrics are indecipherable. It’s kinda hard to teach kids a lesson when they can’t even figure out what you’re singing.

It’s a shame that a sloppy finish and some poorly conceived musical numbers make “Charlie” less enjoyable. Because if you factor out these missteps, you’ve got one brilliant picture on your hands. Ignore the gaffes, and this retelling sparkles with the shine of a treasured fable. It’s remarkably easy on the eyes, and its sense of humor keeps things speeding along at a delightful pace. So while I’m tempted to sulk about the ways in which “Charlie” goes wrong, I’ll do my best to ignore them. Instead, I’ll cheer over the many ways it goes right. This one will most likely not be as memorable and eternal as the 1971 version, but it will charm those modern crowds who plan to stop by for a visit.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12582&reviewer=392
originally posted: 07/16/05 18:18:50
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User Comments

1/29/17 stephen a giant pos 1 stars
6/21/15 David Hollingsworth gives remakes a bad name 2 stars
1/02/15 Catherine H zzzzz ... worthless remake, stick to Wilder version 1 stars
12/23/13 Michelle O any excuse for Depp to don COPIOUS amounts of makeup= he's no Wilder! 3 stars
9/08/11 Robin Awful adaptation that bastardizes the book while wrapping itself in a flag of faithfulness 1 stars
7/14/11 art an Adequate remake of the 1971 classic. 3 stars
6/05/11 Jeff Wilder Good for what it is. The Gene Wilder one is still the best though. 4 stars
1/29/11 Linda J A great remake of Willy Wonka. But then, what movie isn't great with Johnny Depp? 5 stars
6/30/09 orion Good for kids but overall farily blah 2 stars
6/06/09 Pokejedservo Not bad but I admit I too preferred the first film. 3 stars
3/27/09 Stevo Um... why, in England, are people paying in American dollars? 1 stars
1/12/09 Anonymous. another freakish performance by depp :D 4 stars
8/14/08 Shaun Wallner Depp is so funny!! 5 stars
5/10/08 drydock54321 why does johnny depp always play such strange dark characters 4 stars
4/23/08 art A GRIM REHASH OF THE 1971 VERISON 3 stars
2/17/08 SamanthaP the 1st time it was creepy and the 2nd time i loved it! sooo funny! 4 stars
6/08/07 Danielle Ophelia Lets the sugar speak for itself and concentrates on the tale's underlying menace. 4 stars
6/04/07 katy great filim 4 stars
5/03/07 johnnyfog The first one sucked ass, and so does this one. Why do people like either? 2 stars
4/17/07 Stevo UK ''Willy Wanker and the sack of shit''. Is that a better title? 1 stars
4/02/07 jo sing it boring for some part 4 stars
3/16/07 cleofus jones can't stand the songs..but love burton//depp//movie 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Burton is the Willy Wonka of Hollywood. 4 stars
12/04/06 Stanley Thai A feast for the eyes, this film is filled with great sets and visuals! Great film! 4 stars
11/09/06 becky very good the chocolate was so yummy 5 stars
9/03/06 David Pollastrini Darker than original. 4 stars
8/31/06 kate tasker it sucked 1 stars
7/25/06 Mrs. Robinson sorry, but it just cant compare to the old one 1 stars
7/17/06 David Cohen Who would have thought Burton and Depp could make an unappealing combo 3 stars
7/05/06 Tom Groholski Sticks closely to the book and entertaining 4 stars
6/14/06 Poopsy Fartworthy I love the new Charlie and the chocolate Fcatory film! 5 stars
5/14/06 Diane P love johnny depp but unfortunately for me this remake didn't compare to the first. 3 stars
4/30/06 dinesh kumar Dahl, Depp and Burton, all my favorites and what an amazing movie. 5 stars
4/26/06 lala depp looked freay, hated the songs, but it was ok but the original was WAY WAY better 3 stars
4/16/06 JoJo betta than da original, but I agree w/ emily, he looked like Michael Jackson. 2 stars
4/02/06 Quigley better the 2nd time. Johnny Depp was great, and the look of the movie is visually stunning 5 stars
3/23/06 jesika wtf? total ripoff of the original- i almost shot someone after i cn this pos movie 1 stars
3/20/06 Rebecca I loved the movie, it's great for kids and enjoyable for everyone. 5 stars
3/18/06 Elizabeth An entertaining movie but it can't beat the original. 3 stars
3/12/06 Roderick Cromar Too short. Songs irritating rather than entertaining. 2 stars
2/04/06 Shawn Gadberry Interesting, different, but the original is the better movie by FAR! 3 stars
2/03/06 Michele why do people like this story? 2 stars
1/29/06 the laughing man Not better than the original, but it is a more faithful adapation of Dahl's classic. 4 stars
1/19/06 emily thought Depp looked like a creepy version of Michael Jackson, but overall it was very good 4 stars
1/18/06 MrsVoorheesBabyBoy Just when you thought Johnny Depp couldn't get any gayer 3 stars
1/16/06 terry Liked johnny depp - didnt like the movie over all - I was disappointed with this movie 3 stars
1/15/06 Alexis Edgy, dark and closer to the original story than the Wilder version. Depp is wonderful. 4 stars
1/12/06 sammy BIG PIECE OF UGLY, BORING CRAP 1 stars
1/09/06 Indrid Cold Depp tries to command the screen a la Jim Carrey, but he just isn't that great of an actor. 4 stars
12/23/05 Quigley the movie has great acting and incredible visuals, computer and set design. hail, Burton! 4 stars
12/23/05 S Gray Freddie Highmore is excellent but this movie was garbage. 1 stars
12/21/05 Ethan M. A classical film remade, but Depp could not live up to the standards of Wilder. 3 stars
12/21/05 tina mateer first won was better,yet this was good and did you see all the chocolate? heaven 4 stars
12/18/05 Bree Can't be compared to original. So dont! Excellent film. Good fun. Very close to the book! 5 stars
12/05/05 Sean D. Sheridan Not as good as original with Gene Wilder!! The Oompa-Loompas in current movie disappoint! 3 stars
12/04/05 stickman Silly movie, avoid it. 3 stars
12/02/05 Jennifer S. Very enjoyable remake of a classic. 4 stars
12/01/05 George Depp was great as usual,but I hated this remake. 2 stars
11/26/05 ods Funny and weird 5 stars
11/24/05 Idiot_for_LMP pass on this film. ruined a great classic 2 stars
11/23/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Deep Roy should have won best supporting actor. 3 stars
11/13/05 Del Pretty crappy remake of an all-time classic, the oompa-loompas just sucked ass 1 stars
11/12/05 Quigley johnny depp looks gay and pale, but his performance was as superb as the set design and CG 4 stars
11/10/05 Steve A great disappointment. Both from Burton and Depp 2 stars
11/09/05 natalie one of the best movies that tim burton has directed and johnny depp was awsome in it 5 stars
10/31/05 missjie86 Endearing, annoying, creepy and bizarre, but a Depp portrayal is always interesting. 4 stars
10/13/05 BoB A bit wierd and strange- but its meant 2 b, right? 3 stars
10/07/05 brittany boring and had no differences than the original movie 1 stars
9/22/05 Sugar Depp's performance, outstanding. Elfman's music, inpiring. Overall movie, I am in awe of. 5 stars
9/04/05 Green Gremlin Makes the original version look like an episode of "HR Puf'stuff" !!! 5 stars
9/04/05 Daryl Walker This flim was very funny at times. Johnny Depp was fantastic and it was just a fun time. 5 stars
9/03/05 littlefishy pretty good (not!) suked shit.......... 2 stars
9/01/05 Danielle I thought it was funny and I like the charecters in the movie 5 stars
8/31/05 WWW.FALLOUTWEAR.TRIPOD.COM/ great skate t-shirts and funny t-shirts. 5 stars
8/27/05 Tom Burns I loved this movie. Johnny Depp is hilarious. 5 stars
8/25/05 Nick Better then the original. REAL lessons to learn here. 5 stars
8/24/05 Eden Suffers from crap musical numbers and a tacked-on back story 3 stars
8/17/05 Littlepurch Not a patch on the original but still great.Music was great, kids were funny. Depp just ok. 4 stars
8/14/05 Snickerdoodle Really good, Johnny Depp is a riot and the songs are catchy 5 stars
8/12/05 Lynn Taylor cracking film loved it so much went bk to see it. Johnny depp is just brill 5 stars
8/09/05 bigfish reviewed by a cultural moron 1 stars
8/08/05 joy best movie ever! 5 stars
8/08/05 jada ok family movie 3 stars
8/08/05 joeysquids the original rrules-this is the best "remake" of all time 5 stars
8/06/05 tammi i is worth taking the family out 4 stars
8/06/05 ellziopscilly super! 5 stars
8/06/05 G Rosenberg Inventive, non-pandering fun 5 stars
8/05/05 Zack A million times better than the SHITTY Mel Stuart film from 1971! 5 stars
8/04/05 ron abrams just okay. looked great. not wild about deep. 3 stars
8/03/05 Christian The original was darker, and the "musical' features were just horrible. Still, enjoyable. 4 stars
8/03/05 Me Better than the original! 5 stars
8/01/05 C Vega More Loyal to the Book than Gene Wilders version and Perhaps dare I say it..... even better 5 stars
8/01/05 Wolfwhisper I seen it 4 times, Johnny Depp put a new edge on Willy Wonka! 5 stars
8/01/05 michaelb14 Depp was great as usual but Wilder still has the #1 in my book 4 stars
7/31/05 Beth Kerrick Good for kids; it wasn't as sinister as the original and obviously had better effects. 4 stars
7/31/05 R maybe sometimes taking liberties with a story is okay.. 2 stars
7/31/05 Matt Weak on nearly every single level. A failure for Burton and Depp. 2 stars
7/29/05 PK Charlie and the Chocolate Fatory proves what a genious Gene Wilder was in Willie Wonka... 3 stars
7/28/05 StuBot Burton lays a fools' golden egg. This movie, like his other recent attempts, fall far short 2 stars
7/28/05 sbpat21 very funny and exhilarating (***** 1/2 stars ) 5 stars
7/26/05 pym excellent movie, great adaptation of Dahl's book, very fine acting . I'll see it again 5 stars
7/26/05 John Our kids loved the movie!! 4 stars
7/26/05 Mike Olson Somewhat tedious. 2 stars
7/26/05 Mahogany Dear Hollywood, Stop remaking movies and just let them rest in peace! PLEASE!! 1 stars
7/26/05 Ty Spiceland Great movie, one of the best I've seen this summer 5 stars
7/24/05 Farrah I love Tim Burton films and Johnny Depp. This film was great and I can't wait to buy th DVD 5 stars
7/22/05 sully oompa loompa creepy,creepy,creepy,creepy, creepy 4 stars
7/22/05 Dan Just doesn't capture the essence of the original. 2 stars
7/21/05 Kankasaur if you're a teenager with headgear, this entire movie will make you want to kill yourself 5 stars
7/21/05 WilderFan71 Will not be remebered for decades! Depp's "Wonka" = "WackoJacko" 1 stars
7/21/05 Artic i loved this movie, but i love any movie with johnny depp in it 5 stars
7/21/05 TROGDOR the entire movie made me want to fucking kill myself 1 stars
7/21/05 RockyS Depp's performance is perfectly smart and creepy 4 stars
7/21/05 Nessus More fun than I thought it would be, fantastic visuals, quirky 5 stars
7/20/05 Ken Great update (the original is one of my all-time favorites). Depp is perfectly creepy. 5 stars
7/20/05 William Vollmer not quite as good as '71 version 4 stars
7/19/05 Danny Burton-esque through and through, but missing the "magic" or the '71 film adaptation. 4 stars
7/19/05 Ole Man Bourbon Lots of good stuff 4 stars
7/19/05 orpament weirdly enjoyable except for the oompah loompahs 4 stars
7/19/05 jcjs easily as wow as the original, better even...Depp great, clever, fun, wonderful 5 stars
7/19/05 SmackDown Depp was terrible as Wonka, Jim Carry please! It felt rushed out, painfull to watch. Sorry! 3 stars
7/18/05 darkone silly makes no real sense 3 stars
7/18/05 Rick Burton creates a GREAT world...however, justifying Willy's candy obsession...odd 4 stars
7/17/05 Jeff Wilder Great film with a weak ending 4 stars
7/17/05 Charlie Not as good as the original. Watch Big Fish, directed by Burton as well, and is better. 3 stars
7/17/05 Nicole Creepier/darker feel than the 70's version and slightly altered story 4 stars
7/17/05 cpbjr extremely interesting. lagged in parts, with some poor execution. 4 stars
7/16/05 ReboValence This is how the last adaptation of the book should have gone. 5 stars
7/16/05 KingNeutron 3 1/2 *s; good in-jokes and music. Depp's Wonka doesnt compare to Wilder tho 3 stars
7/16/05 Jim The Movie Freak The boat ride was scarier in the original. Oompa Loompa songs lame! Still very entertainin 3 stars
7/16/05 Titus Soo o . . . cool. 5 stars
7/15/05 Body odor. Finally a guy in makeup,who has a kid styled home, that doesn't molest children. Brillant. 5 stars
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  15-Jul-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 08-Nov-2005



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