Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Release date: July 15, 2005
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: John August
Based on: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Cast: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee

Many times I find people calling Tim Burton’s films “reimagining’s” of classic tales and I find that a hard word to sell when these films are lacking in what makes many of said classics great: pure imagination. After creating the stunning Big Fish, Burton tried to do a cartwheel and flip but ended up flat on his face with the ambitious, but ultimately disappointing mess of a film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Adapted from Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, the film tells of a young boy named Charlie, who would do just about anything to go through the wildly famous Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. When he finds one of five golden tickets in a Wonka chocolate bar, he and his grandfather head to the factory for their grand tour with the most unusual candy man there is. Alongside eight others, Charlie discovers the wonders and perils that lie within.

There is something absolutely wonderful about the first half hour of this movie. Life outside of the chocolate factory is established with a certain grace. Some great camera work and framing, a lovely expressionist set design for Charlie’s house, and well-executed introductions for all the characters through amusing — and sometimes even touching — little segments. It is when we go inside the factory that the true troubles begin.

Everything about this world seems entirely familiar, as Burton’s style rarely ever changes even though each film should be telling a different story. This isn’t a bad thing as his style is part of what makes him so memorable, but at times it’s almost too overwhelmingly ridiculous, even for a film of a fantastic nature like this. An overreliance on CGI means that barely anything looks real, and it doesn’t have quite the right recipe of realism and fantasy that something like Edward Scissorhands had.

Speaking of Edward Scissorhands, here we have Johnny Depp as yet another strange character, except this time it’s not a good thing. As many before me have said, Depp looks like what someone might imagine Michael Jackson might look like if he’d won an audition for this role. His performance is far too camp and ditsy to work here, even though this is an absolutely nonsensical film. Normally, I would be against trying to imitate what a previous actor did with the same character, but Depp leaves one longing for that Gene Wilder charm. Luckily enough for audiences, the children try as hard as they can to bring the dialogue to life and they keep the movie moving, even if it all seems like an absolute chore after about an hour.

At more than one point in this movie, one almost wishes they could take a dive into those large pools of chocolate in hopes of drowning. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. What I really mean is in hopes of drowning out the incessant tunes of the superimposed oompa loompas. If anything could be considered the worst part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it is the constant reminder that someone thought it was a good idea for Deep Roy to be every single oompa loompa in addition to writing new tunes for them to sing.

To place the blame on Tim Burton alone for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s failure would be wrong, as it is a competently directed film with a few impressive moments. If not for Depp’s performance, the oompa loompas, and a subpar script with a few good jokes spread far and throughout, this could have actually rivaled Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Alas, those with a sweet tooth for good movies might want to go for the classic rather than this unfortunate mess.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Part of the 2012 YAMYUM Food Blogathon.

Juan Barquin

Just yer average twenty-something college student with no time on his hands who ends up watching (and writing) too many movies and shows for his own good.

2 Responses

  1. Camiele says:

    I find that a hard word to sell when these films are lacking in what makes many of said classics great: pure imagination.” I see what you did there… nice.

    And I totally agree. Though this adaptation DOES follow the book almost to a T, the problem is there isn’t enough life in it to warrant a decent appreciation for it. And agreed that the oompa loompas (or rather, oompa loompa) were a complete mess. Those in the ACTUAL reimagining (of course, the 1971 classic with Gene Wilder) actual give the characters the depth that Dahl imagined for them in the original book. It’s too campy and not enough substance. And… Gene Wilder is unadulterated genius, while Johnny is just Johnny (which in most cases means he’s brilliant, but in this case it just means he’s doing his job, if that makes any sense).

    I was very saddened with this one. Considering Dahl is one of my favourite authors of all time, I was kinda heartbroken that this one didn’t at the very least expound on the brilliance of the first film. *sigh* This is a very fair review and rating of a movie that should’ve been amazing. Another movie in which a director I actual like does so little with so much (the other would be Night and his monstrosity of a movie called The Last Airbender… I still shudder with pure anger whenever I think about that one!).

  2. amy says:

    I didn’t mindddddd Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I didn’t grow up with the other version, and thought the book was so-so. I would put this slightly above Dark Shadows, but that’s mainly because I haven’t watched this in quite a while and maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be so kind to it now.

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