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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)


Darryl A. Armstrong
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Saw it on Friday night and liked it well enough, probably 35stars.gif all around. I didn't care too much for the whole father subplot, and I thought the various flashbacks were handled rather crudely, just sort of crammed in there. I liked Depp, especially how he moved so effortlessly from whimsical and wierd to just plain creepy and even sadistic with the slightest change in his smile. In fact, I wish the movie had been a bit darker than it was, so obviously focused was it on the eccentricities of Wonka's character at the expense of everything else.

For example, I was disappointed that

we find out what happened to the other kids at the end of the movie, and that they all turned out safe and sound (more or less)

. I don't know if that's how the book ends, but IIRC, the original movie ends with that being left unanswered, which added just the right touch of ambiguity and menace.

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I'm leaning slightly negative on the film, but I agree with SDG that it's an improvement over the 1971 version by a long shot.

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FWIW, $55.4 million gives us Johnny Depp's best opening weekend ever (his previous best being Pirates of the Caribbean's $46.6 million in 2003) and Tim Burton's second-best (his best being Planet of the Apes's $68.5 million in 2001).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
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FWIW, I liked it better than the 1971 Gene Wilder version.

SDG,

I thought it was MUCH better than the 1971 film. I really liked Depp's performance, which you didn't, but then I like Depp, and I never read the book. Having read the book and been connected to Dahl's Wonka seems to have influenced your review of the film. Do you generally like Depp?

Because I've not read the book, can you answer a question for me? In the 1971 film, the one part I do like (that is not in Burton's film) is that Charlie messes up too. He doesn't get in as much trouble as the others, but only because he gets lucky (it could be argued). Of course he redeems himself by giving back the gobstopper. This mistake by Charlie is missing in Burton's film, making Charlie almost "perfect." This didn't bother me terribly as I watched it, but I generally prefer characters that make mistakes. So my question: did Dah's Charlie make a greedy mistake in the factory like the 1971 Charlie, or no?

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Finally got out to see this, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

First things first: Deep Roy deserves some kind of award for his outrageous performance(s) as the Oompa-Loompas. Burton used him brilliantly.

Freddie Highmore is really something special, although I hope his sense of wonder isn't exploited in any more movies or it's going to become automatic and tiresome.

I agree with everyone who loves the early scenes at Charlie's house. All of the scenes with his family were enchanting.

But I'm also going to join those cheering for the rest of the film. It's tedious in a few places, but I think that's almost inevitable when your plot is basically a tour, and when you know right away that you're in for a series of misbehaviors and punishments. Burton made something memorable out of almost every scene. That spectacle of squirrels was fantastic.

I don't see Jackson in Depp's performance. I just see him in the combination of his pasty-white makeover, in the details of Dahl's character (reclusive, draws children to his lair, obsessed with frivolous indulgence, worried about the outside world), and in the embellishments that Burton made to Wonka's story. Depp should be congratulated for *avoiding* any blatant Jacksonisms and creating yet another entirely unique character. (If he resembles anyone at all to me, he resembles a slightly more effeminate Ed Wood.)

I'll have to argue with SDG on this one. While I agree, this is certainly not Dahl's story... in fact, it's quite a re-write... I enjoyed this more than any Burton film since Ed Wood. Front to back, I enjoyed it. Depp... loved him, as usual. He always surprises me with completely new improvisations. I like the odd childishness of the character... which made sense, considering that Burton's backstory never gave him a chance to grow up.

This really works as a thematic sequel to Edward Scissorhands... a fact that Burton seems to blatantly admit by having Depp weild a pair of scissors in the very first moment we see him turn to face the camera unobscured.

Having seen this and Broken Flowers in quick succession, I was a bit startled at the similarities in the opening-credit sequences. In both, we're basically ushered through the elaborate steps of a conveyor system, following either a chocolate bar or a piece of mail. Nothing profound about that... just a strange coincidence.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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It's all been said. A flawless first act, the factory is where it falls apart. The family is warm and works beautifully. The backstory is gratuitous.

Other random thoughts.

I liked Burton's conception of the opening exposition. Burton is an art director/designer who thinks he's a director.

David Kelly was great!

And I love the kid! Again!

Depp worked sometimes. And sometimes not. The overwhelming unhealth of Wonka was disturbing. He was a kid at heart in the book, but never such a fractured soul. The perfect wonka moment IMO was when he threw away Mr. Beauragaurd's business card. But in the flashback moments, too disturbed.

The factory while cool at times, was largely joyless. Why would anyone want to own this terrifying place where nothing nice ever happens?

The oompa loompas worked a little. Their first song was great especially the Ziegfield tribute, and the squirrel song was tolerable, but otherwise. Blech!

The Squirrels were very nice. MUCH better than the geese.

Edited by DanBuck
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Overall, I found the movie to be a decidedly mixed bag. I loved the set design, art decoration, and the note-perfect portrayal of the kids who take part in the contest (particularly good is Highmore as Charlie, who comes off as a nice kid and not a goody-goody little pug like Peter Ostrum). But on the other hand, you have Johnny Depp, who is at turns the best and worst thing about the movie. His performance is both funny and interesting for its own sake, but it doesn't remotely resemble the behavior of Dahl's Willy Wonka (and since the movie is billed as a faithful adaptation of the book, this is a problem).

I'm not sure if Depp really did model his performance after Michael Jackson, but he sure as heck reminded me of MJ. The way he flitted around with that sickly-pale makeup on, sometimes even keeping one of his hands extended outward with all his fingers together, was awfully Jacksonian. Just look at the posters, where he has his hat dipped over his eyes as if he were about to start Moonwalking.

Ditto on the comments about the Oompa Loompas. Going in, I didn't think they would work, but it was terrific.

Ugh, I thought they were one of the worst things about the film. Those songs of theirs were embarassing and annoying, and no-where near as effective as those sung by the doomsday orange midgets that played the Oompa-Loompas in the otherwise-lame 1971 film.

All in all, the film is more interesting and entertaining than the 71' version, but it isn't that great when all is said and done.

-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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Not bad, mind you. Pleasant enough to sit through and even entertaining in parts. But once it was over, I felt like it had passed through me, taking nothing with it and leaving nothing behind.

Like... ice cream?

I felt the same way, and I felt that's all it was supposed to be... a trifle. Frivolous.

My review.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Well, the first half-hour was really good Breyer's chocolate mint ice cream. The rest of the movie was like that icky ice cream that is full of tiny fruit cubes.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But...but...but...

Nothing seemed to be at stake for any of these characters. 

Unlike Ken, I do have something of an investment in the 1971 film. (I was one of the incensed minons who boycotted WB until they released a proper widescreen version of the film on DVD.) But I was somewhat looking forward to Burton's version. If anyone was going to re-do Wonka, surely Burton and Depp would be the people to do it right. But...

I, too, walked out of the theater being squarely on the fence and not knowing exactly what it was that kept me from loving it or hating it. I, too, have been reading the posts hoping to find something to crystalize my thoughts. And what I've come to is closely related to Ken's observation above.

In this film, Charlie wins purely by attrition. He wins by not doing anything. All of the other children fail in some way, and they DO something wrong or foolish. Charlie, however, gets the prize simply by NOT doing anything. It is significant to me that Charlie is never tested. He is never put into a position where his character is tried. In Stuart's film, Charlie and Grandpa Joe are tested, and, in fact, fail. Their actions with the fizzy lifting gas--when they think no one is looking--initially relegate them to the same status as the others, as it should. It is Charlie's ACTION of repentence that finally wins over Wonka.

This version of Wonka reminded me uncomortably with SW: Ep 1 in which Anakin saves the day not because he's a skilled pilot relying on the Force but because he's a bumbling child who happens to hit the right button by mistake. When Luke destroyed the Death Star he did it with skill and an act of trust in Ben and the Force. When Anakin wins, it's by an act of slapstick comedy.

In Stuart's version of Wonka, Charlie wins by actively doing good. In Burton's version, he wins by (actively?) doing nothing.

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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Kudos also to tc's post.

I take your points, and raise them. I would dare say that Freddie Highmore and David Kelly were wasted in scenes where the focus was not on them. They looked... quite bored.

That said, I was giddy for 90% of the film. Ear-to-ear grins. I loved it, all the way up to the final final sequence, which was so misguided I was actively looking at the other movies at the drive-in we saw it at. Utterly painful.

Does the final 10% negate the first 90%? .... No... but it makes me want to invest in CleanFilms technology so I can rid it of all its extraneous filler, that doesn't carry the emotional or narrative weight as the rest of the film.

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I agree with you, but I wonder how (if at all) you would answer those who say that Charlie's being told

he must choose between his family and the chocolate factory

is his "test."

Perhaps this came so late in the film and the gap of time between when Charlie

renounced his inheritance and returned to poverty

and when

Wonka returned to renew and better his offer

made it seem to you (as to me) that this was an excercise the characters were going through and not a decision that the characters felt the weight of?

That's a good question, Ken.

On the one hand, the fact that I'd totally forgotten about that scene as soon as I walked out of the theatre probably says something about its effectiveness.

On the other hand, I guess I need to flesh out my thoughts a bit more. Does Wonka's requirement that Charlie leave his family constitute an actual test? Sure the question is laid out there for him, but from what we know about Charlie to this point in the film--his willingness to sacrifice his golden ticket so that the family could have some cash, etc--I'm not sure that there was any real chance of him taking it.

Another way of saying it is that dramatically Burton's Charlie is actually a rather static character. He's good at the beginning. He's good in the middle. He's good at the end. There's no real development of his character. In Stuart's version (and I daresay in Dahl's although it's been awhile since I've read it), Charlie certainly begins good, but he fails. It is how he deals with his failure that ultimately wins over Wonka. There is a dynamism to Charlie that is dramatically satisfying.

Alan, I agree. Further, I would argue that in Stuart's version Wonka is actually a grown-up. One of the intriguing aspects of that film is that, contrary to a long tradition in children's lit, it has good adults in it that Charlie can trust. In as much as Wonka is childish in his embracing of wonder and imagination, he is still a mature individual who has a functioning set of morals. Burton's Wonka is childish in a very different, unlikeable way.

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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Dang. I always feel like I read these threads after they're at least 3 pages long. I'm perpetually late.

Anyway, I too feel that the film is harmless but flawed. Having never read the book, I don't know what Dahl had in mind for Wonka's character to be: a child at heart, or a spoiled little brat. Depp's portrayal struck me as odd (though not odd for Depp--his deadpan characters are beginning to wear on me) because he seemed like a total jerk. As a kid I loved Wonka, but if I were seeing this film as a kid today, there's really nothing likable about him. Funny perhaps, but not likable.

I really don't see a huge difference between the four brats that "failed the test" and Wonka himself. They're all selfish, all disobedient/disrespectful toward their parents, and all deserve a reality slap. Think about it: the only difference between Augustus and Willy is that one is a glutton, the other was a dreamer.

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I did like that the other grandpa was the one to talk Charlie out of selling the ticket, though. As I mentioned in Traveling Pants thread, I like it when some ancilliary characters are given moments of insight or grace rather than all being idiots so that the principles can look better.

Peace.

Ken

I must interject that the one of the reasons that I feel able to analyze the dramatic arcs of the characters and what not is that Burton has given us a film that is rather accomplished in other areas of the craft. Most blockbuster films are so devoid of plot or technical competence that it's hard to take seriously whatever philosophic inclinations they might have.

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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Excellent thoughts, tctruffin! You almost make me want to go back and watch the earlier film. Almost. smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In this film, Charlie wins purely by attrition.  He wins by not doing anything.  All of the other children fail in some way, and they DO something wrong or foolish.  Charlie, however, gets the prize simply by NOT doing anything.  It is significant to me that Charlie is never tested.  He is never put into a position where his character is tried.  In Stuart's film, Charlie and Grandpa Joe are tested, and, in fact, fail.  Their actions with the fizzy lifting gas--when they think no one is looking--initially relegate them to the same status as the others, as it should.  It is Charlie's ACTION of repentence that finally wins over Wonka.

Reminds me of something I said...

I have not seen the Burton/Depp film, but I'm a bit surprised that it has become the occasion of so much hatin' on the 1971 Wilder film. Neither characterization gets very close to the book, but I predict my preference for Wilder will be, if anything, galvanized by the Burton film when I get round to viewing it.

Thinkin' I might nominate the '71 film for the Top100, just out of spite. Heck, if American Beauty can get in...

Edited by mrmando

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Heh.

My only point is that this thread has been around so long we're starting to repeat ourselves. In fact, I can see that I made my point about the "original Oompa-Loompas" not once but twice.

And for that, I must be punished. Please transfer all kudos from me back to Todd.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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Mr. Mando is very kind. I keep waiting for a pack of oompa-loompas to come dance around me singing some didactic tune about the failings of my parents to teach me the value of reading all pages of a thread before waxing eloquent. Mea culpa.

I just watched the film again this afternoon (a colleague of my wife's wanted to see it and got a group together). On a second viewing I'd like to make a couple of possible unconnected observations:

1. The musical score seems very aggressive to me. Whereas the score of Stuart's film was full of whimsy, Elfman seems to assault the screen. While I enjoyed the kitschy nods to rock&roll by the oompah-loompas, the rest of the score seemed a bit angry.

2. Stuart's 1971 film was entitled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but was ever and always the story of Charlie. Burton's film is entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and seems to actually be the story of Wonka.

Hoping I haven't been again repeating the excellent observations of others without attribution.

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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tctruffin:

2. Stuart's 1971 film was entitled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but was ever and always the story of Charlie. Burton's film is entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and seems to actually be the story of Wonka.

I'm not sure what's gotten into me, but...

That's delightful! cool.gif

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"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
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2.  Stuart's 1971 film was entitled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but was ever and always the story of Charlie.  Burton's film is entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and seems to actually be the story of Wonka.

Hoping I haven't been again repeating the excellent observations of others without attribution.

FWIW, I made 3/4 of this observation in my review (with the remaining 1/4 arguably implicit) -- but not as succinctly as you did:
It

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Hoping I haven't been again repeating the excellent observations of others without attribution.

FWIW, I made 3/4 of this observation in my review

And I made the point prior to my reading SDG's review. But I don't fault tct. I asked questions in another post that had been covered by mrmando in previous posts, so I am guilty too.

We really have to read ALL posts before posting? It seems like offering a little grace for repeated points and questions is easier for those coming late to the discussion. I don't mind the ribbing when I am the offender.

Edited by Jeff Rioux
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You know, going back and reading some of this discussion, it occurs to me that somebody ought to question whether there is really any obligation to go back and read ALL previous posts before participating. Is it really so bad if we repeat each other, make the same observations, ask questions that may have been addressed earlier? I don't think we should get hung up on this sort of thing.

[Added] Oh. Wait. Well, there you go.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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You know, going back and reading some of this discussion, it occurs to me that somebody ought to question whether there is really any obligation to go back and read ALL previous posts before participating. Is it really so bad if we repeat each other, make the same observations, ask questions that may have been addressed earlier? I don't think we should get hung up on this sort of thing.

I am not hung up on this,

No, I am not.

This isn't a rope,

And that isn't a knot.

I linked back to an old post,

But not to "ahem,"

Or to prove that My intellect

Works faster than Them.

Just wished to reiterate,

And though it sounds crazy

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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