Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

“Ha ha ha, wasn't that just magnificent? I was worried it was getting a little dodgy in the middle part, but then that finale... Wow!”

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Freddie Highmore and David Kelly
Writer: John August

So I should probably put up front that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is my favourite childhood movie. When I heard Tim Burton was remaking the movie I wasn’t that worried, when I heard Johnny Depp would be playing Willy Wonka I wasn’t that worried. In fact you could say I went into this movie with the highest of expectations. Where did it go so wrong?

To me this movie has it’s share of both good and bad, with the bad really overwhelming the good. I think the perfect example of this would be in the acting. With the four naughty children played by Anasophia Robb, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry and Phillip Wiegratz, they really do hit the mark with their characters. Each child represents perfectly a problem child and is very distinctive. Honestly when it comes to Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop, I like these versions better than the original.

However when we move on to the two main characters things fall apart. I’m not sure what Johnny Depp was trying to do, but it just didn’t work. His Willy Wonka is annoying, and just seems to be played too childish if that’s possible, and I just didn’t care about him, which is a problem as he’s the actual main character in this movie. Freddie Highmore as Charlie is hurt with some bad writing, but like Depp he also seems to make a character choice that just doesn’t work. Charlie is way to goody goody, and it is just bloody ridiculous that a child can be this angelic; it verges on the Jesus side of the equation. In the original Charlie was still a good boy, but he had his selfish moments like any kid would.

Visually this movie kicks the ass out of the original. Obviously this is Tim Burtons strong suit and the entire factory looks awesome. Each room is distinctive and the ideas behind some of the candy is expressed visually just perfect. But as I was going through the factory I just wasn’t as fascinated as I would normally be, I do find this weird, I will clearly admit that this is my own problem. But I can’t help wonder if this has to do with the old argument of CGI vs Pratical.

Story wise the movie focuses more on Willy Wonka, rather than Charlie. It’s a tad off putting especially given the performance of Depp. There are also ideas in the movie that make me scratch my head some what. When I hear the name Ommpa Loompa I don’t imagine a really small man, something a bit more fantastical pops into my head. Also there is a lot of showing the back story of how Willy Wonka came to be and honestly I liked the mystery behind the man. By concentrating on Willy Wonka there is a dilution in Charlie’s story and that’s where we really get our emotional pay off.

 It was around Planet of the Apes I started to turn away from Tim Burton, I was some what relieved with Big Fish as it adds a grand emotional core not really common in Burton’s work. But with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the camels back was broken. Burton is a master of visuals, but it seems with Big Fish he’s used up what was ever left of his story telling juice, as this movie is a hollow experience filled with some bad acting choices, and a story that just doesn’t work. Sure the visuals are great, and some the child performers are fantastic but I’ve come to expect a lot more from Burton. Basically this movie is very much like chocolate, tastes great, but there’s nothing good for you in it.

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