If ever there was a perfect match to remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this is it. With the visual prowess of Tim Burton and the
wacky, yet versatile, Johnny Depp, how could this not be great? Well, let me tell you exactly how.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gets off to a good enough start. The first act is devoted entirely to Charlie and his family. They recount
stories of the enigmatic Willy Wonka and even though some of it isn’t necessary, it is always entertaining and very funny.
Surprisingly, it’s when the film should start building energy that it begins to lose it. After the entrance into the factory, the story abruptly
shifts its focus from Charlie to Willy Wonka and a wacky host of supporting characters.
This brings me to Johnny Depp as Wonka. Easily considered one of the finest actors today, Depp gives a mildly amusing, partly irritating,
and ultimately disappointing performance. There is a difference between weird funny and just plain weird. It’s a unique performance all
right, but it’s very hit or miss.
It doesn’t help that this portion of the movie is basically an excuse to expel the cartoonish “other kids” by way of awkward visual effects
and excruciatingly bad songs. Maybe I would have hated them less if I could understand what the hell the damn Oompa Loompas were
Even through the low points though, the film maintains a good sense of humor, and thank goodness it does. It’s just disappointing that the
major aspects of the story fall so flat. The script can’t decide whether to focus on Charlie or Wonka. During the factory sections, Charlie all
but disappears into the background. And even though it is a nice idea to have a fleshed out back-story to the Wonka character, it slows the
film down and blurs the narrative focus.
Charlie and the Chocolate factory is an enjoyable film, with some very funny moments and excellent production design. Overall however, it
falls short. Maybe a rewrite of John August’s screenplay and a less over the top performance from Depp would have made the difference.
As it is, Burton’s take on the Chocolate Factory is only semisweet.
* * 1/2
(out of four)
|CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: John August
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly,
Helena Bonham Carter
Cinematography by: Philippe Rousselot
Music by: Danny Elfman
Released: July 15, 2005; 106 Minutes