Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Review Date:
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: John August
Producers: Brad Grey, Richard Zanuck
Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka
Freddie Highmore as Charlie
Christopher Lee as Dr. Wonka
A really rich, really weird recluse who loves chocolate decides to run a contest that would allow 5 kids (with a guest each) to visit his massively secret factory for a day. Once inside his awesome facility, the guests discover how much kookier the man really is, how much further his technological advancements are, and how much he just loves making that candy. Johnny Depp acting really really weird…ensues.
Despite being a huge fan of both director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, I expected to be somewhat disappointed with this movie, if only because it seemed like it was being geared toward toddlers and would come off pretty “childish” rather than anything else. Now while the film does obviously take place in the world of children, make-believe, candy and all of that fun kiddie stuff, it really didn’t feel like a kid’s movie at all, in fact, Depp’s character of Willie Wonka came off as one of the weirder, creepier, downright nastier leads of the year. This dude really hated kids! But the film is obviously a lot more than that, starting with its quaint “London in the wintertime” opening, its grand Burton-esque visuals – charmingly gothic and oversized – the complementary fantastic score by Danny Elfman, its many quirky characters, including the small, but relevant, part played by Christopher Lee, and last but certainly not least, the continued amazing thespian skills demonstrated by Johnny Depp. I really don’t want to oversell this guy, but once he showed up in the movie (which is about 40 minutes into it), things really took a turn for the fun and creepy, as his extremely bizarre look and behavior (and voice and teeth and…) just pulled me entirely into the movie – essentially adding the cherry on top of the film’s already stunning set design, art direction and props. The film won’t win any “most engaging story of the year” awards, but that didn’t bother me at all.

Some movies concentrate more on their storyline, weaving in and out, delivering emotional punches at every turn, while others, like CHARLIE, just take you on a ride, splashing colors, sounds and awesome new worlds all over your eyelids, in the hopes that you will journey along and enjoy everything you see and hear for its duration. I did. Other than the over-emphasis on the Oompa-Loompas, who were decent, but really took over a lot more of the film than they deserved (and all of their songs should have been cut or excised entirely—they just slowed things down as they were moving forward pretty steadily—although I really dug the original Wonka tune), I had a blast with the film’s basic premise, which resembled that other Burton classic (and one of my favorite movies of all-time) EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and was entertained by all of its goofiness, including many of Depp’s odd one-liners, peculiar stares and over-the-top behavior. I also really dug the world of the Wonka Factory, including the chocolate waterfalls, the candy-land area, the many themed rooms and the very cool see-through elevator. The whole thing was very grandiose, but at the same time, the pure performance by lead kid Freddie Highmore, his family and even the flashbacks to Wonka’s own childhood, brought a sense of reality to the proceedings, adding that much more to the spirit of the movie’s basic theme of fun and entertainment.

And ultimately, that’s what this movie does best: it entertains. I was surprised by how much “darker” it was than I imagined, but at the same time, kids might not pick up on some of those subtler touches, and enjoy it for its more basic superficial fun choices and overall positive message (don’t be bratty and spoiled, kids!). For us adults, I think there’s a whole bunch of cool fantasy stuff to enjoy, the visuals and the score are top-notch, Depp is infectiously creepy and you know what…I can see college students slapping this puppy into their DVD players, grabbing a bowl and some cheeba, and watching the film on an entirely different level altogether – which between me and you, might bring even greater insight into the man and the world that is Wonka.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian