Whenever the subject of the ?ew?CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is raised, I seem to be the only person who thinks the seventies ?riginal?(WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) wasn? actually the childhood classic it has somehow become known as. Gene Wilder was ok, but the film didn? feel like Roald Dahl? originally brilliant book ?and don? get me started on the naff songs (?heer up Charlie?is saccharine rubbish). So, at least I thought that a ?emake?or even a ?e-imagining?was in desperate need. Who better then to bring the book to the screen, properly, than the man who tells a dark and twisted tale like no other ?Tim Burton (SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS).
His recent movies being more reserved visually than usual, Burton comes to CHARLIE with dizzying camera moves, a rich world of imagination, filled with vivid picture book colours and buckets of style. The film sees Burton? two favourite elements come together- the gothic and the gaudy. The exterior of titular factory, soaked in a metallic grey beset by flurries of snow could have come from a deleted scene in BATMAN RETURNS, whilst the interior is a madcap rainbow world that serves to make the whole thing feel that bit more fantastical. Using (occasionally obvious) CGI flourishes, Burton whips up a storm in his immense and pitch perfect sets that begins the second the factory gates open and doesn? stop until the finale. Burton is clearly enjoying himself here- he is, as ever, a confident storyteller who understands the importance of good looking surroundings to tell a tale.
The book has truly come to life this time around, with Dahl? world benefiting from an injection of verve and insanity from Burton who sensibilities go hand in hand with those of the authors. Particular relish is reserved when dealing with nasty kids (as it is in the book) who meet gruesome fates in the factory- here Burton cuts loose with Oompa Loompa dance fests (at one point in the style of glam rockers The Darkness), making his camera twist, turn and drop. These moments are matched in their insanity and invention by the whirligig ride in the glass elevator, a moment where the CGI works well and lets the film be that bit more mental- because if anything, the book has been made more insane by the director.
The acting is uniformly good, with star Johnny Depp being the obvious recipient of praise for his kooky, edgy Wonka, a child loathing nutter who could use several tanning sessions to top up his colour. Lesser journos may suggest similarities between the chocolatier and a certain Mr Michael Jackson, choosing to ignore the fact, while both live their lives behind a veil of secrecy; Wonka simply can? stand children when the Moonwalker will quite openly admit he likes the company of kids. That out of the way, Wonka is a great creation, who steals the film away from child star Freddie Highmore as Charlie the moment he appears properly, because, if we are being honest (and we are) Charlie is not all that interesting, whereas Wonka is. Good as young Highmore shows himself to be throughout, there are moments when (through no fault of his own) little Charlie Bucket is a bit too much of a goodie goodie- the omission of the plot thread from the book in which he is tempted to steal Wonka? secrets is a loss that would have given a somewhat less perfect (and oddly more likeable) character. However, he never reaches the lows of other child stars (ill name me no names) and can be a pretty cute little fella (me being a hard nut bloke that? difficult to say). The supporting cast are good when they get a look in- special mention to Deep Roy as the Oompa Loompas (yes, all of them). The man has certainly come a long way since his days as a killer dummy in DOCTOR WHO. However, the cast all come second fiddle to Wonka who totally dominates the picture.
John August? screenplay diverges from the original book in places, while sticking very closely to it in others. These changes work in some instances- providing Wonka with a back story not only gets Christopher Lee in the film, but allows Burton to have another dabble in the world of Halloween and to explore the relationships between fathers and sons that carries on from last years BIG FISH. However, the films ending lacks something- perhaps a little more excitement to truly cap things off- but this doesn? detract too terribly from the overall product. Another grating point that I noticed more than I tend to in films was the ?mericanisation?of some of the dialogue. Referring to ?andy?as opposed to chocolate annoyed me increasingly as did several other such changes- nit picking yes, but god did it sound strange coming out of the mouths of a Bucket family who all speak in good English.
But overall this is a film that is as crazy and kooky as anything Depp and Burton have done before. Things don? always gel as they should do ?the finale is a bit of an anti climax (but then I really wanted to see more of the factory!). Johnny Depp has to be the new definitive Willy Wonka, and Highmore is an occasionally too perfect Charlie, but a well acted one. This is a true family film- there is something here for everyone in the family, you just have to enter the factory to find it. Grab your golden ticket today.