a critiQal film review Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Plot: Charlie Bucket (Highmore) wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world's most unusual candy maker, Willy Wonka (Depp).

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  • ...mix Tim Burton's usual off-kilter style with Depp's zany, over-the-top take on Willy Wonka, and the result is a remake that's more fun than the original could ever hope to be.

Almost everyone has seen the classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), haven’t they? So, when weird – yet brilliant – director Tim Burton announced he was remaking the film, everyone knew it was going to be something off-the-wall – but would Charlie and the Chocolate Factory be good?

After the first pictures and previews started appearing, I knew it was going to be chock-full of special effects, but I wasn’t willing to spend the money (or time) to go see it in theaters. Would Depp’s Wonka be leading viewers on a magical tour through his personal chocolate fantasy land – or would this be just another case of a classic that should have been left alone? Heather and I decided to find out for ourselves once Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hit DVD.

Depp’s performance as Willy Wonka puts the first movie to shame all by itself, as original Wonka Gene Wilder doesn’t even hold a candle in the wind against Depp’s brilliant portrayal of Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As both versions tend to center around the oddball character of Willy Wonka, this will greatly bring down any re-viewing factor the original film once held.

While Willy Wonka is a bit odder than the characters that Depp usually portrays, Depp practically revels in that fact. Viewers have seen Depp cut loose a little bit before, as Cpt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), but that was nothing compared to the zaniness he brings to Willy Wonka.

Depp’s Wonka fills the screen in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with his pop-eyed cartoonish persona, giving viewers something to stare at in each and every scene. At first, Depp’s performance seems to be just an over-the-top joke for the audience to laugh at, but as the film continues, viewers will start to laugh not at Wonka, but along with him as they begin to recognize the smile lurking behind the zany facade.

Unlike Gene’s Wonka, the original Oompa-Loompas manage to hold their own against the new and improved versions in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While the old obviously-made-up Oompas managed to make “oompa-loompa, doop-i-dee-do” squirrel it’s way into viewers’ brains and hearts in the original film, the new Oompas discard that song bit, going instead for flash and more up-to-date rock beats to try to get the same effect.

Unfortunately, the Oompas are the major disappointment of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the update sadly lacking in all of the qualities that the originals provided – and without coming up with a single good new song or anything else worth them changing the original for.

The plot, as in the earlier version of the film, centers around the tour of the factory, and – thanks to technological advances in the meantime as well as Burton’s own unique vision – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s tour is truly spellbinding. With the chocolate river looking real enough to reach out and touch, the candy looking more scrumptious than ever, and even a few new tricks hidden amongst the walls of Wonka’s factory, this trip lives up to – and exceeds – any and all expectations.

As an added bonus, this version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a side story quietly flowing along throughout the film, adding a new ending that fills in some of the blanks most viewers most likely never even realized the original film had.

The special effects in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are truly dazzling. While the Oompas have definitely shrunk in size, the world of the chocolate factory has expanded enormously (strangely lacking in the lighter-than-air cream soda room that caused so many intestinal problems for Charlie and his grandfather in the original – although a bubbling mixture shown partway through the film may be a bit of a homage to that particular scene).

Whether it’s shrinking down the Oompas, or turning Violet into a blueberry, each of the effects is done with seemingly no difficulty at all, with each effect flowing in seamlessly with it’s surroundings. True, there are occasional exceptions, but overall the special effects are quite a sight to behold.

Tim Burton has always seemed a bit off-kilter, whether he’s trying to tell a love story about a man with scissors for hands (Edward Scissorhands), or a new take on a comic book hero (Batman (1989)). The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no exception. Add in Depp’s zany Wonka, and this ride gets real trippy, real fast.

Thankfully, this overwhelming bizarreness actually helps out Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, turning this remake into a better film than the original could ever hope to be – albeit an updated, “oompa-loompa doop-i-dee-do” lacking one.

And it looks like it won’t be the last bit of kooky fun from Tim Burton, if the pictures/previews of Corpse Bride (2005) are any indication.

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