Charlie and the Chcolate Factory review by The Grim Ringler

Being that this movie has been reviewed in greater depth elsewhere on the site I’ll give you my eight and a half cents worth. First and foremost, try, if you can, to get the original film out of your head. I know that the echoes of the original classic tainted my own view of this film but I was able to still see things pretty clearly. Clearly enough to review this version.

Charlie is a good kid, a very good kid by all accounts, but he and his family are poor. Not just poor, but three steps from destitute. But his family loves him, and he loves them, and that makes up for the cabbage soup that they eat every day. But when a contest begins that will let five lucky children into the vast and mysterious Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Charlie is more excited than he’s ever been before. He has always idolized Wonka and, living in the shadow of the factory, has always wanted to go within it and see its wonders, and now is his chance. The first four tickets are found – having been placed through the world within the wrappers of bars of Wonka chocolate – so it looks like Charlie won’t get his wish. When a stroke of luck happens and he finds a ten pound note and is able to buy one last bar, as a way of keeping the faith, Charlie becomes the fifth and final child that has won the contest. He’ll meet Wonka! Ecstatic, he and his grandfather, who had once worked at the factory, wait with the other children and their parents – one per child – for the moment to arrive. Never would they have guessed at the strange man that appears, more child than man, nor of the bizarre world they are about to encounter inside the factory. But there is a bigger prize than chocolate that awaits the one child Wonka believes is the best of them, a prize greater than anyone can imagine…though its price is perhaps more than a child would be willing to pay to receive it.

The beauty of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story is that it’s one that any and every kid can relate to – the dream of something that is so impossible and improbable that seeing it come true, even in a film, was the kind of dream a kid could get behind. And Charlie WAS such a neat kid. So ordinary and simple that anyone could see themselves in him. The other children that had the tickets were archetypes of miserable children that no child really believes they can ever be. So this is a story that children are bound to connect to on some level – the excitement of winning something this exciting, the fear of the world of Wonka, and the anticipation of seeing such preposterous things. The original film is a classic that, while embedded into our hearts and consciousness, deviated from the book, while the new version, from director Tim Burton is intended to more faithfully adapt the book. Being a Tim Burton film, the set and art direction is stunning. It’s a film that you could watch with no sound at all and still enjoy. The children in the film are as iconic and strong as ever, each one with a fine presence and personality, the boy playing Charlie being the strongest of all. The Oompa Loompas are distinctive and have their own presence, and the world of Wonka is as exciting and creepy as it ever was. The parts of this film all come together for me very well, save for two things.

The music It’s great music, and it’s interesting…but the musical numbers stop the film dead. They may well be straight from the book but the songs don’t flow, are too theatrical, and there is a plotline that is dropped, which bothers me. A plotline that Mike Teevee brings up when he points out that the Oompa Loompas. And he’s right. Why the hell DO the Oompa Loompas manage to create these songs that are so specific and detailed, and with bombastic backing music, on the spot. Willy explains that it’s nothing more than the art of improvisation. Bollocks I say.

Willy Wonka himself. He may well be based on the original but I just couldn’t get into the portrayal of Wonka (Johnny Depp) as a man-child just didn’t wash with me. Not sure if it was Depp or the character as it was written, but it just didn’t really draw me in. Which is an utter shame. And it stinks because it makes it all the harder to push the original out of your head.

This is a very well made film, and is a gorgeous one to behold, but it’s sadly imperfect. The message is hammered too hard and the film stops cold at the end as we wait for Burton to get to the point he is laboring to make. And that, with the strange portrayal of Wonka, make it a hard film to fall in love with. It may well work better for people that have read the book recently, and it may well be a better film upon a second viewing (as a friend who accompanied me claimed), but on first blush, I just didn’t fully believe in this world. It’s a fine film…but not a magical one. Perhaps it’s that the original film nailed the book so well on the biggest points that this new version seems like it’s almost aping that first film.

This is a good film, and it’s well worth a rental and a viewing as a matinee, but I can’t tell you that it’s worth almost nine bucks. Not when there are some really good films out this summer. I love Burton and Depp, and when they work together it’s usually pure gold, but the themes are too close to that of Big Fish (which had the same screenwriter) and the portrayal of Wonka is just so hard to buy into that the delightful story of young Charlie Bucket just doesn’t ring as true this time around.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
blog comments powered by Disqus