Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was fun for about 60 minutes, after that I realized I had seen it all before and none of it was original or interesting. Tim Burton certainly added his Burton-esque touch to the look and design and Johnny Depp delivered his own portrayal of Wonka, as only he can, but in the end it simply felt like a copy of the first film, which if you ask me is far better and far more entertaining.
For those of you that have seen the original or read the classic Roald Dahl book get ready to be less than surprised or taken aback by anything in this feature as the chocolatier shut-in Willy Wonka (Depp) opens up his chocolate factory to five lucky kids via the famed Golden Ticket. As luck would have it Charlie Bucket (Highmore) rounds out the five winners and invites Grandpa Joe, a one-time Wonka employee, to join him as the outsiders are taken on a magical tour of the factory that has not been seen in 15 years.
As the original before it and the book, the tour takes us through a land made of candy, an invention room, the chocolate river and waterfall, the glass elevator, the TV teleport room and so on. There are differences however from the 1971 Gene Wilder feature and even the book for that matter.
This time around Wonka has a back story, his father, played by Christopher Lee, plays a large role in the eccentric candy maker’s life. You fans of the first will realize that Wonka no longer sings and instead of a Golden Goose doing in Veruca Salt, it is nut-cracking squirrels that send her to the garbage shoot.
Then come the Oompa-Loompas, all played by one man, Deep Roy, who was also featured in Burton’s Big Fish as Mr. Soggybottom. The Oompa’s are no longer orange with green hair and they are a little creepier than they were in the original, which is no problem, but there is one problem with their classic songs, you can’t understand a word!
Like the book and the original Wonka flick the Oompa-Loompas sing as they clean up the mess left by the naughty little children during the tour, whether it is rolling away a giant Violet turned blueberry or stretching out Mike Teavee they have a signature song for each, and thanks to loud music and high pitched vocals you can only make out bits and pieces of the songs making the would-be great scenes virtually worthless. To go along with the complaints the first song is just the first example of how the vocals don’t match the lip-syncing Roy. Charlie music composer, Danny Elfman, provides the voice of the Oompas in their song and dance and as the words are played over the theater speakers, it appears as if the Oompas are singing an entirely different song, it is very distracting.
If there was to be a bright side to the Oompas you will be introduced to the never-before-seen Loompaland, unfortunately that bright side soon turns dark as nothing really happens and it is not so exciting.
Continuing on my rant I move to the set pieces, which were disappointing to say the least. Wonka’s “candy land” was in no way enticing or even remotely resembled a land made of candy and his invention room looked so much like a set populated by cheap plastic pieces it wasn’t even funny. As far as exteriors go Wonka’s Factory was impressive as was the Bucket family’s home, which was classic Tim Burton as it leaned to one side and had a twisting chimney, but that still doesn’t save the fact that the rest looked cheap.
To give credit where credit is due, Depp turned in a great performance as Wonka, the unfortunate thing is that he wasn’t given enough to do. In the 1971 version Wilder not only delivered his kooky performance as Wonka, he also sang a few songs. In this version Wonka does no singing to which Depp has said he was grateful, but without the songs there is only so much Depp can do to give Wonka a voice as his story is primarily told through quick anecdotes or the fatherly flashbacks.
The children did what they could with their roles, but they were so similar to the original film that none of it felt new. On top of that Charlie was so quiet throughout the flick and so reserved he was virtually non existent. This is supposed to be Charlie’s film, like the title insinuates, but instead the story seemed to rely on “magnificent” set pieces and the unruly children, which just added nothing to look forward to as the film moved along.
To say I was looking forward to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be an understatement. I loved the original Gene Wilder version and Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are two of the greatest in Hollywood today, but I was more than disappointed in this effort as the problems were too many to count.
I will, however, end by saying that my opinion may be a bit skewed since I did enjoy the first film so much. Adults and children alike that have not seen the 1971 film just might find this film 100 percent enjoyable, which is a factor that should certainly be taken into consideration. I am hoping to give the film a second chance myself.