Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


“A Turkish Delight – same as most on the outside, but with a disturbing, slightly wacky centre. But yes, some people like Turkish Delight’s, and evidently, some people are going to like this” – Clint Morris

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Tayler, David Kelly, Missi Pyle, Christopher Lee, James Fox

Some prefer the original, some prefer the dark variety. The original is an old-reliable – less nip, goes down well, and no savour. Dark, on the other hand, has more bite, doesn’t mix well with some, and leaves you with a hard-to-lose after taste. Of course, we’re talking about chocolate – but chances are it’s the same way both film versions of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will be seen in the coming years. One’s light and fluffy, the other’s dark and well, different.

As soon as Director Tim Burton (“Beetlejuice”, “Batman”, “Edward Scissorhands”) was hired to direct a new film version of the best-selling children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, anyone that had read the book – or seen the earlier film version, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) starring Gene Wilder – was picketing the spiked gates of Warner. They had a point: Charlie is one of the most fluffiest, feel-good children’s stories of our time, and Burton hasn’t come close to making another of the ‘warm and fuzzy’ variety. His speciality is the dark, gothic, slightly gloomy and never feel-good. Surely the wrong man for the job, right?

The answer is still yes, but he does give it a rousing try.

Charlie (Freddie Highmore) lives in a lopsided old shack with his four grandparents and eternally broke parents. When Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp), the local recluse who lives and runs the highly lucrative Chocolate Factory nearby, announces that he’ll be inviting 5 children to visit his factory – the have to find the Golden Ticket in one of his chocolate bard – Charlie wants in.

Naturally, Charlie gets one, and with his grandpa (David Kelly), joins 4 spoilt little brats on an excursion to the inconceivably excessive Chocolate Factory – where everyone, but Charlie, gets a lesson in ethics, insatiability and comeuppance.

Burton’s “Chocolate Factory” is a far different experience than the previous film version. It’s darker in tone, slightly grittier, possibly a little frightening for children, more funky than feel-good, and predominantly, headlined by a much more sinister Willy Wonka. Whilst Gene Wilder played the character as a big-hearted larger-than-life barrel of tunes and talk, Johnny Depp seems to be channelling Michael Jackson and Mr Rogers – playing the mixed-up bloke as slightly demented, a little sinister and predominantly, a chap no parent would like to leave the kiddies with for the day. Better is Freddie Highmore, who also played opposite Depp in “Finding Neverland”, who plays poor little Charlie Bucket to perfection.

The film’s script is the biggest disappoint though. Not only does it encompass a rather dreary back-story about young Wonka and his dentist Dad (Christopher Lee), but also it’s uneven, with the film’s third-act and ending is about as exciting and rousing as cutting your toenails. It’s clearly missing something – largely, the ‘warm and fuzzies’. It does follow more closely the original book, than the previous movie, but if tweaking the template for the Wilder version worked first time around – why not stick to that? It’s the one we know, and love.

At the same time, Burton’s film – not surprisingly, considering he’s best known for his crafty work – looks a treat. The township, the factory, and the effects are all A-grade. And though Deep – unlike Wilder – doesn’t sing as Wonka, the Oompa Loompa’s (all played by scene-stealer Deep Roy ) do – and they’re wonderfully staged little ditties. Points to regular Burton collaborator Danny Elfman – though his many theme sounds a little too similar to his “Batman” (1989) score – for coming up with the film’s exuberant music.

Burton’s “Chocolate Factory” is a “Turkish Delight” – same as most on the outside, but with a disturbing, slightly wacky centre. But yes, some people like Turkish Delight’s, and evidently, some people are going to like this.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris