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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory convincingly
makes the argument against cloning dwarves, in
one short song and dance number.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(Hollywood remake or sequel, or film based on a comic book, book, play or video game # 36, since January 1st, 2005. Click for full list of Hollywood's lack of original ideas.)
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Oompa-Loompa, who the hell cares?
A film hasn't been this unnecessary since Gus Van Sant dropped one too many tabs of acid and decided to create a shot-for-shot remake of the original Psycho. The 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a fun enough film that has gained cult status. Willy Wonka isn't the classic it's made out to be, but it has a certain cryptic charm that Tim Burton's version is sadly without (both films are based on the 1964 book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). As far as story goes, the two adaptations are nearly identical. If you've seen the 1971 Chocolate Factory, there is no reason to watch this one. Johnny Depp's performance, while decent, isn't the actor's best and isn't as good -- or as subtly menacing -- as Gene Wilder's performance in the 1971 film. The changes in the 2005 film are trivial, the additions to the film aren't needed and the scenes subtracted are sorely missed.
The Willy Wonka character (Johnny Depp) now has a backstory involving his father Wilbur (Christopher Lee) and childhood candy-deprivation. The story distracts from the tour of the Chocolate Factory, itself. It also leads to one of the best line deliveries of the film (involving a flashback) and one of the lamest sight gags of the movie (involving flags of the world). The biggest problem with the new scenes is that they diminish the mystery of Willy Wonka. It seems screenwriter John August couldn't resist explaining away Wonka's eccentricities and quirks through a run-of-the-mill subplot regarding a lost childhood.
In the 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we get to see Willy Wonka work his way through the treacherous Oompaloompaland -- which looks about as convincing as a set from Gilligan's Island -- to the Ewok Village where the Oompa-Loompas (all played by actor Deep Roy) reside. Oompaloompaland worked better when it was left up to the imagination.
Another small change is the addition of extra rooms in the Chocolate Factory. It will be fun to see PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) react to the "whipped cream" room, where Oompa-Loompas hang cows up in the air by straps and whip them, while pulling on their teats to get their cream. The rooms are mostly all plays on words, most of them not very funny or worth adding. After a while, the movie begins to feel like a bad episode of Tiny Toons.
A Computer Generated opening credit sequence starts the film off on the wrong foot. CG machines pump out CG chocolate with CG names in it, as Danny Elfman's score -- which sounds like a less inspired version of Danny Elfman's other scores -- booms out of the speakers. Since Burton wanted to go with practical effects as much as possible, this CG beginning feels out of place and unnecessary. Why not a little stop-motion action? Get people pumped for Burton's Corpse Bride.
We no longer get much of an idea of the characters, outside of Charlie, until they enter Willy Wonka's world. The way they're introduced reminded me of the opening scenes of the Charlie's Angels films. We briefly see Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) kicking two adult's asses in Karate (since she never uses Karate again in the film, this seems especially aimless). Cut to Mike Teavee (Jordon Fry) playing a violent video game and revealing that he "found" the gold ticket by hacking the system. Veruca Salt (Julia Winter) whines to her daddy about wanting this, that, and the other. Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) is covered in chocolate while giving a television interview. When watching Augustus on the TV, Charlie's grandfather calls him a "porker." This seems out-of-character and unnecessarily mean-spirited.
Due to the hurried pre-Chocolate Factory scenes, we miss much of what made Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory such a fun film. Burton never properly conveys how crazy the world has gotten over winning one of the five tickets. Sure, he has brief shots of people everywhere running and buying countless candy bars, but we don't feel the urgency in this film. The satirical elements of the original movie are completely lost in the rush. The fact that the news media is pushing important stories aside to make room for the tabloid tale of golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars is lost on the director, or at least isn't visible in his film.
In addition to the backstories of Oompaloompa Land and Willy Wonka's childhood, we hear a line in the first Oompa-Loompa song that lets the audience know that these naughty children will be okay, even though they are disappearing. This takes a lot away from the "why is this all happening? Is Willy Wonka kidnapping these children? Is he a menace? Should we send him to Gitmo?" feel of the 1971 film. Depp's soft-touched portrayal of Willy Wonka also takes away from the mysterious feel of the character.
Gene Wilder played Willy Wonka with a sadistic flair that kept children intrigued by keeping them slightly intimidated throughout the movie. Johnny Depp plays him as a sweet man who's a little "off" due to a parental figure missing from his life. He's essentially Edward Scissorhands without the heart or soul -- or Michael Jackson without the molestation allegations. The film acknowledges the Scissorhands similarities, when it shows Willy Wonka cutting the ribbon to his factory and then standing with gigantic scissors in hand.
Instead of the undeniably catchy Oompa-Loompa song that was sung after each child's self-imposed disappearance in the 1971 film, we get 4 pop songs written by Danny Elfman (whose entire score sounds phoned in). During the first, the Oompa-Loompas have a Busby Berkeley inspired dance number that had half the audience members laughing and the other half scratching their heads. When the film has the Oompa-Loompas performing one of their numbers as a Spinal Tap-ish heavy metal band, it's obvious that this unimaginative flick's moving from bad to unbearable.
Outside of the opening sequences with Charlie and his family, the film is without heart. Instead, we're given a rapid-fire tour of the Chocolate Factory and another petty father/son backstory, which Burton somehow manages to work into nearly all of his films. The movie seems to be created for the special effects, but the effects aren't so special. With no heart, soul, magic or sense of wonderment, the least they could have done was to give us some jaw-dropping effects. Something to make the audience feel like it got its $8.50 worth. Instead, the film leaves us with nothing.
Burton's most uninspired work since Planet of the Apes
This movie has the look of a Tim Burton film, but not the feel. Burton seems to be going through the motions for a paycheck. Maybe it was a trade-off he made with Warner Bros. He provides them with a big summer cash-in of a film and they fund his stop-motion project. There are more inspired shots in the 2 minute trailer for Corpse Bride than there are in the entire 2 hours of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Burton manages to get fairly good performances out of his actors. Freddie Highmore does an especially noteworthy job as Charlie Bucket. This kid proves that his performance in Finding Neverland wasn't a fluke. I think Johnny Depp made a mistake when he decided to portray Willy Wonka as one of God's "special" people, but he does a good enough job in said portrayal. The other 4 children are sufficiently bratty, although Jordon Fry overdoes it as Mike Teavee. The best acting comes in the most modest of scenes, set in the Bucket household.
What the hell's up with all the colors?
Did Joel Schumacher co-direct this? This movie has the look of 2003's The Cat in the Hat. That's not a compliment, being that The Cat in the Hat is probably the worst film ever made.
The only welcome change in the 2005 film
The only welcome change in the 2005 film is getting rid of the scene where Charlie and his grandfather float on those bubbles. The scene was fun enough, but it always drove me nuts that Charlie disobeyed the rules, just like the other children, but somehow got away with it. It's nice to be rid of that plot hole. The squirrels aren't bad either, outside of the lame nut joke.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just another incident of Hollywood pirating itself (to see a full list of all the pirating Hollywood is doing, click here). Could the studios be conducting an expensive sociological study on the human moviegoer, and how many times the specimen is willing to pay to see a slight variation of the same thing they already paid for previously? Or are they just yelling "suckers!" and laughing all the way to the bank? If that's the case, why don't the studios save some money and simply re-release the original films? I realize that they say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn't a remake, but it's impossible not to notice how many scenes were inspired by the 1971 movie, as well as the 1964 book. It's also impossible not to notice how without heart, soul or purpose the 2005 film is, and how much better off you would have been staying home and watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on DVD.
Agree? Disagree? Have questions? Comments? Email this critic at firstname.lastname@example.org
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