Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

When filmmakers decide to make a new version of a classic film, it can be a daunting task. The first Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a much beloved movie based on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Director Tim Burton (Big Fish, Planet of the Apes) did the right thing in his version - he used his own unique vision to tell the story. People can still compare it to the original, but this new version is uniquely Burton's, and very weird. Most of this is due to the casting of Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland, Happily Ever After) as the reclusive Willy Wonka, candy maker extraordinaire.

Wonka dislikes children, and dislikes family. He revels in the isolation of his factory, where he can invent things on his own without any interruption. Depp plays Wonka like some sort of emotionally stunted man-child. He has a weird bob-cut, pale skin, and acts petulantly in front of his guests. He says strange things at odd moments, and is altogether completely unpredictable. It's not quite funny, and verges on creepy at times. As bizarre as it is, Depp's performance does lend an otherworldly nature to Charlie's (Freddie Highmore, Two Brothers, Finding Neverland) unique tour.

Charlie was one of five lucky children to win a tour into Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Each of them found a golden ticket inside a candy bar. The tour was special because Wonka was such a recluse, and nobody had seen him or the inside of his factory for decades. Unlike the other children, Charlie was the only "good" one, which eventually sparks a kinship with Wonka. Yeah, the story (adapted by John August, Big Fish, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) is familiar, but there is an inherent magical quality about is, which is why it has lasted so long.

The chocolate factory itself is a marvel of color and fancy. The various rooms that Wonka tours for the children are otherworldly landscapes that switch from the magical to the scientific. The Oompa-Loompas (played by Deep Roy, Big Fish, The Haunted Mansion) sing their way around, and candy is everywhere. Yet, there is a strange sterile feeling to all of this. Part of it is due to the emotional detachment of Wonka, but part is also due to the fact that while everything looks magical, Burton was not quite successful in translating the look to the feeling.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory works best outside the factory. Charlie lives in utter destitution with his parents (Noah Taylor, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Helena Bonham Carter, Big Fish, Til Human Voices Wake Us). His family is so poor that all four of his grandparents live in the same bed. His house his crooked, and his world resembles a modern Dicken-esque slum. Yet, Carter, Taylor, and an enchanting David Kelly (Laws of Attraction, Agent Cody Banks 2) heap love upon Charlie, teaching him how to be a good kid despite the living situations. The warmth of the dialogue is a nice contrast to the dingy surroundings, and provides the emotional heft missing in most of the middle portion.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 46 minutes, Rated PG for quirky situations, action, and mild language.

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