Inside the Chocolate Factory

Today, I went to see the brand spankin’ new adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Being a big fan of Tim Burton’s delicious weirdness, and also a big fan of Johnny Depp’s delicious… Johnny Depp-ness, and also also at least a moderate fan of Roald Dahl’s original book, I have to say that I, for one, was really looking forward to this movie. So how was it? Like I expected — sort of like a 1 hour, 46 minute sugar high — fun and discomfort all mixed up together in a great big confection of guilt.

First of all, this film is not a remake of the 1970s Gene Wilder classic titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, for which I’m glad. Go ahead and call me a jerk, but even though that movie is fun, and that Oompa Loompa song sure is catchy, it just never really clicked with me. Tim Burton’s version of Charlie is, well, Tim Burton’s, and therefore is really its own thing. I think it follows Dahl’s book pretty closely; it may vary from the source material in places (most movies do), but where it does, I don’t remember. The last time I read the book I was 9. So it’s been awhile.

Anyway, I think Tim Burton nailed it. The opening scenes in the Bucket home are spot-on, and the kid who plays Charlie is priceless. In fact, most of the kids in this are good, though I did find myself wishing for just a little bit more appalling brattiness out of Veruca Salt. Even though I think comparing this to the other film version is sort of pointless, I will say that the Oompa Loompas in this film kick the other ones’ asses all the way to Oompa Land and back. For what it’s worth.

Actually, as much as it may pain me to say this, the only problem I had with this was Depp’s performance. I was glad to see that he wasn’t Michael Jackson so much as a 19th century dandy underneath layers of cynical sadism and stiffness. At first, it worked for me, but after awhile, it got to be a bit much. Though the malicious smile that would play on his mouth when each of those awful children got what was coming to them was a nice touch. Ah, schadenfreude.

Anyway, I think it was worth sitting in a theater crammed with children on a Saturday afternoon to see this film, if for no other reason than, seriously, oh my God, the squirrels!

6 Responses

  1. Tim BurtonThanks for the
    Tim Burton

    Thanks for the review.

    To me, the thing about Tim Burton is, when he misses, he misses big. I am a big fan of his work, but the two which didn’t do much for me were Planet of the Apes and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I think the original Planet of the Apes is still a masterpiece. The apes in the new one were nothing special, despite modern advances in make-up & special effects. The last scene was also less dramatic and silly. The headless horseman in Sleepy Hollow loses the mystery with the dude walking around like, “I’m in line to be an action figure like Freddie Kruger, Jason, and Pumpkin Head.”

    Based on these two movies, I had a vague notion that i could wait for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be on TV.

  2. Well, I don’t think it’s the
    Well, I don’t think it’s the greatest movie ever, and I doubt that anybody would live a life bereft of wonder if they were to miss it, but I definitely don’t think it was as bad or as worthless as people seemed to be anticipating it to be. The movie had its problems, sure, and I was aware of them as I watched it, but now that I’ve been out of the theater for several hours, they’ve all sort of dissolved like so much sugar.

    I never did see Burton’s version of Planet of the Apes (I have Marky Mark issues), and I’d agree that his Sleepy Hollow wasn’t that great (though there were things about it that I liked a lot), but he’s also responsbile for Edward Scissorhands, which is probably one of my all-time favorites.

  3. Well, I do appreciate your
    Well, I do appreciate your review — I was undecided whether or not I would give the movie a try, but based on your endorsement I think I will.

    As for Burton, well, I did like “Edwards Scissorhands”. As long as Tim Burton is playing with highly visual material I don’t see why I should object to his highly visual treatments. Seems appropriate enough for this book. I did like the earlier “Wonka”, by the way, mainly for Gene Wilder’s performance, but that kid actor who played Charlie was the worst, and I am glad to hear they found somebody better this time around.

  4. The Funnest AfternoonThe last
    The Funnest Afternoon

    The last two weeks had left me drained and totally exhausted so I quickly jumped on board at the suggestion of spending Saturday afternoon in a dark theatre. Besides I did want to see this movie.

    It turned out to be the most fun I have had at the movies in a long time. Perhaps it was being wedged into an unconfortable seat that seemed to be precariously balanced on the side of a cliff. I had to dig in with my tennies to keep from sliding out of my chair…Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

    Maybe it was going to a kids’ movie in a theatre packed with kids. This is really the way to see this movie. Even if you don’t like sharing amovie experience with noisy kids, they do add a certain chemistry.

    The fun, for me at least, began in the previews (I don’t know about you but I have always loved movie trailers in the threatre. On TV, not so much). The trailer for Ice Age 2 absolutely cracked me up and put me in a “laugh at the squirrel” frame of mind which was a perfect set up for Charlie. (Jamelah is right… you have to love the squirrel scene)

    I was into the movie from the get-go and laughed throughout. Depp was delightfully sadistic which added a bit of unexpected flavor to this movie. All kids’ movies must have a horrible lovable vilian. He does a jeckle/hyde character quite well in this… flip-flopping back in forth from feindish delight to lovable weirdo.

    When I left, I was over my exhaustion and ready for pizza. I had laughed away whatever had me down and it was great to just be. Sometimes all an adult needs to keep going is an afternoon at the movies to become a kid again. Charlie… did this for me. I highly recommend it.

  5. Like I say, I’m a Tim Burton
    Like I say, I’m a Tim Burton fan. Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Batman, Big Fish – when the man is on, he’s on. So maybe I should give Chocolate Factory a chance. I should probably read the book first. This is, after all, a literary matter.

  6. Little Guys and DahlsOverall,
    Little Guys and Dahls

    Overall, I have to agree that Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was an enjoyable ride. I took my 7 year old son to see it. It’s certainly a perfect flick for that age group.

    However, I was really disturbed by the representation of indigenous people in the film. It’s frustrating that Hollywood has such repeated issues with representing people of color. Yes, I know this is a film based on a book from the UK. They certainly have their share of issues when it comes to dealing with non-Anglos. But why was it that the Oompa Loompas, in Burton’s version, have to be grunting, gratefully subservient, drug-addicted (to cocoa) entertaining fools? Why are they all played by one person? They are not granted unique identities.

    On another socially relevant issue in the film… There are very interesting issues regarding Mr. Bucket’s job at the toothpaste factory. In the book the factory just goes under. In the movie, Bucket is replaced with a robot. Of course, he later becomes the keeper of the robot. Kind of reminicent of Chaplan’s Modern Times or Metropolis. Really interesting old movie themes here.

    What are both the movie and book saying when all the workers are fired and replaced by what are essentially slaves. In the movie they are grateful “Third World” slaves who get paid in cocoa. Industrialization seems to be a key issue in the book.

    It would be great to hear what other people think about these issues in light of the film and book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!