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When Willy Wonka decides to let five children into his chocolate factory, he decides to release five golden tickets in five separate chocolate bars, causing complete mayhem. The tickets start to be found, with the fifth going to a very special boy, called Charlie Bucket. With his Grandpa, Charlie joins the rest of the children to experience the most amazing factory ever. But not everything goes to plan within the factory.
This is a film I have been quietly dreading for a long time now. It's not that I don't have faith in the directorial skills of Tim Burton, and it's not that I don't have faith in the acting skills of Johnny Depp -- but, to me, the original "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" is cinematic gold. And, I have had to listen to person after person 'remind' me that this is not a remake, but rather a truthful adaptation of the Roald Dahl tale. Give me a break. There is very little difference between the new film and the old film, other than an expanded upon back-story for Willy Wonka and a prolonged ending. The visual styles might be different, but the story is nearly identical, and the reactions to the progression of that story are nearly identical. Yet, for all the gorgeous visuals and storybook enchantment of "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory", it just doesn't work. I do not blame Tim Burton for this failure. It's just too damned difficult to measure up to Gene Wilder & Co. with anything.
Unless you have lived under a rock your entire life, you know the general storyline. The reclusive Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) gives five lucky children the opportunity of a lifetime -- to take a personal tour of his chocolate factory, with the promise of a lifetime supply of chocolate, and a grand prize for one of the five. Wonka distributes five golden tickets into five ordinary Wonka Bars, and slowly the winners start piling up. The final winner is young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), the very definition of poor, who loves his family and decides to take his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), a former Wonka employee, with him to the factory. When the kids arrive, they meet the bizarre Willy Wonka, as he takes them throughout the factory, with the help of his workers, the Oompa Loompas (Deep Roy). One by one, the children begin succumbing to their own ignorance as Willy Wonka searches for the child purest of heart who might take over the chocolate factory for him. Add on a back-story involving Willy Wonka's father (Christopher Lee) and an ending not nearly as heartwarming as the original, and those are really the only differences. Oh yeah, and we get squirrels instead of geese, and different musical numbers.
There was something about Gene Wilder that made Willy Wonka enigmatic, yet playful and exciting. You never knew what he was going to do, or what he was going to say. Wonka served as the sordid narrator of the film, guiding the children along to their doom with a gleam in his eye and a snicker on his face. Gene Wilder was sweet and evil at the same time. Johnny Depp is nothing short of confusing as Wonka, totally misplaying the role and seeming more like Ed Wood meets Michael Jackson than anything else. Depp was too creepy for the role, and really missed what Roald Dahl intended with the story. Wilder was not quite what Dahl had in mind either, but Wilder basically reinvented the character of Willy Wonka, and made it better. The insertion of the obscure literary references in the original film helped make it that much more magical. In this version, we get Depp spewing crap like "That was weird" and "Oh, boy!" like he's a kid himself. Willy Wonka is not a kid. Willy Wonka is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery. He is wise... savvy... creative... and not -- I repeat not -- a sadistic pedophile.
As for the direction, Tim Burton really nailed a unique vision of the story. He turned this chocolate factory into something entirely original -- a building with a definite mass, but no visible signs of ever ending. His new musical numbers with the Oompa Loompas even surpass the musical numbers in the original, but why insist on making a non-musical version and then cop-out with the occasional ditty. Why not just add "Pure Imagination" and give everyone what they want? Burton tried so hard to make this unlike the original, that it did the exact opposite -- it just seemed like a pale imitation. Freddie Highmore added spunk to Charlie, and the other supporting actors were fine, but I just couldn't get over the feeling that I was watching some very talented actors playing second fiddle to amazing sets and special effects. I wanted something more.
"Charlie & The Chocolate Factory" is not the Tim Burton masterpiece you have been waiting for. It is nice to look at, but Johnny Depp gives the worst performance of his career as the candy-maker. The primary problem is that the original film was probably better than the book. Wilder reinvented Willy Wonka and the dark undertones of the book were laid out in a more accessible manner for all. In the original, we don't see the kids and their parents leaving the factory. We don't know if they are alive, dead, or still strapped down in the dejuicing room. That is what made the original so wonderful. Tim Burton is a fine director -- one of the best -- but he needs to focus on original work instead of these remakes. And, if he insists on the remakes, he needs to select something less sacred than the greatest family film ever made.
- added July 21, 2005 at 4:17am
For starters, it's Roald Dahl. A simple google
search could tell you that. Secondly, Charlie
gains a father. Willy Wonka gains a father. The
entire premise of stealing the everlasting
gobstopper vanished. Of course I agree that the
original was much better, but either you didn't
watch the original or you didn't watch this movie.
There were plenty of differences.
- added July 21, 2005 at 11:41am
i really think that this movie looks really gay.
NOW Y WULDNT U PICK MANSON?
he is sooooo
much beta then depp anyday
- added July 21, 2005 at 1:15pm
The Roald part was my fault - I ran a spell-check
on his review before I posted it and thought that
was a typo. My bad. As for everything else - I
haven't seen this movie, don't plan to, and
haven't seen the original in over a decade.
- added July 27, 2005 at 2:57am
Actually, I have seen the original more times than
I could ever count and I have saw this one, and
there are FEW differences. The problem is that
the original film was actually better than the
book, so the original film is always going to be
considered the definitive source, whether that is
true or not. This new version is flat and
ridiculous, and the differences you see are either
all in your mind, or molehills into mountains.
- added August 1, 2005 at 6:23am
I agree. Burton tried to make it to different and
ended up eliminating the magic and happiness from
the movie. Totally missed Dahls original message.
And as always I really don't like when stuff is
added to an original piece. What is with all this
traumatic experiences in Willy's childhood? And
the whole problem at the end with letting
Charlie's family come to the factory. I guess I
wouldn't have minded if they had totally raped the
movie and put Marilyn Manson in it. That wouldl
just make it crazy.
- added August 2, 2005 at 6:55pm
While I agree in the most general way with your
sentiment, I disagree about most of the specifics.
What really irked me about this movie was its
senseless faithlessness to the book (which, for
the record bluemeanie, was worlds better than the
You applaud Wilder
for reinvneting Wonka, and I agree. He made Wokna
into a two-sided character and the movie was much
better for it. But then you criticize Depp for
"totally misplaying the role "; he too reinvented
Wonka. Now, I found the entire Wonka backstory to
be annoying, cliché, and stupid. That said, I
think that Depp was actually the film's strongest
I found the overusage of
stereotypes was what hurt the movie, not that it
tried so hard to not be like the original that it
ended up being a "pale imitation."
"Why not just give the people what they want?"
you ask. That's not what I wanted and I suspect
it's not what others wanted either. If you were
craving the original, you ought to have just
grain of sand
- added February 15, 2007 at 11:27pm
this version is a disaster, I don't think I liked
one bit of this.. fuck the oompas in this one..
Rest Easy Soul
- added January 24, 2010 at 8:24pm
I love Johnny Depp and I love Tim burton. This
movie doesn't fail to impress but I will say it's
not as good and magical as the first. Visually
this one has it beat but the original had more
heart, better music, better cast and was more
I still love this movie.