|Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter, David Kelly, Christopher Lee, Missi Pyle
Director: Tim Burton
It’s hard not to compare a remake of a classic film, but director Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is so much more; it’s a completely different experience. Adapted almost word for word (unlike the adored 1971 original starring Gene Wilder) from the Roald Dahl children’s novel of the same name, Burton’s vision of the surreal tale is a delightful fantasy ride for both children and adults, but it begs to ask the question: could it have been darker? Some of the director’s earlier work (“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Edward Scissorhands”) focused on similar characters just as eccentric as Willy Wonka, so why hold back from diving a little deeper into the dark side with the biggest, chocolate-covered payoff melting away?
If you’re a fan of the original, the same basic premise still adheres. Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) is still the world’s most popular candy tycoon, and has indeed invited five lucky children to visit his world famous chocolate factory with the promise of a special prize to the most deserving guest. The invitations are sent out through five shiny golden tickets randomly inserted in his many-flavored candy bars, and the first four tickets are swiftly found by a handful of bratty kids. The group include the voracious Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), the incorrigible spoiled brat Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), bubble-gum chewing junior champion Violet Beauregard (Annasophia Robb), and Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), a super-smart video game addict, and the only slight change in the cast of characters. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) - a poor boy who lives with his two parents and four grandparents in a small, slanted house - is the only redeeming child of the group, and lucky bearer of the final golden ticket.
Known for his Kubrick-like attention to detail, Burton hasn’t left anything out from the original novel, but he has added a subplot of his own, namely the childhood backstory of Wonka and his dentist father (the wickedly delectable Christopher Lee). And while the addition of Lee to the already strong group of actors is the piece de resistance of casting, the supplemental material doesn’t seem to fit in with Dahl’s original tale. Still, it does shed some light on why Wonka is such a weird character, complete with pasty skin, lavender shaded eyes, Prince Valiant haircut and top hat. He also has trouble saying the word “parents” and isn’t very people friendly, but what else would you expect from a guy who’s been cooped up in a factory with a bunch of midgets for almost twenty years? He also spouts out childish banter and naively says things like: “Everything in this room is eatable. Even I’m eatable, but that is called cannibalism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.”
The dead-on casting of Johnny Depp as Wonka is obvious from the get go, and without the invested risk that an actor such as Depp brings to each role, the magic of the character would have failed onscreen. This is also Burton and Depp’s fourth collaboration together (with a fifth one on the way), so something clearly works. Depp’s alleged influence for the character was none other than Michael Jackson, and if you though that the Keith Richards-inspired Jack Sparrow (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) was weird, you’re in for a real treat. There’s nothing much to hate about Depp’s performance except that it’s comparably better than Wilder’s beloved portrayal of the candy tycoon. In fact, the only real flaw of the film are Burton’s colorful Oompa Loompa (Roy Deep) numbers (maintaining the original lyrics from the book), which manage to represent a different musical genre every time, but in doing so, typically pull the viewer away from the already wonderful experience. Still, Tim Burton is truly a cinematic visionary, and he proves it once again with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
The two-disc deluxe edition of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" features an array of special features, but oddly enough, no audio commentary by director Tim Burton or star Johnny Depp. The bonus material that is available includes production featurettes on the challenges of bringing the children's story to the big screen, the training of live squirrels, and behind-the-scenes look at creating the Oompa Loompa. Also included are five making-of featurettes and a documentary on author Roald Dahl.