CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (Tim Burton, 2005)
Roald Dahl’s book CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was made into the 1971 film WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY starring Gene Wilder. Johnny Depp takes over the role of the candy man in Tim Burton’s remake. Depp’s FINDING NEVERLAND co-star Freddie Highmore plays Charlie Bucket. He may not have a lot, but he has a loving family to surround him in their ramshackle home. Charlie is one of five children who find a golden ticket that grant the winner and a family member access to a special tour of Willy Wonka’s factory, which has been closed to the public for a long time.
It’s unlikely that there’s a director better suited than Tim Burton to remake CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. The fanciful fairy tale visions he’s lent to EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and BIG FISH come to bear beautifully in the imaginative world Burton and his production and art designers have created. His skewed sense of humor is displayed through witty visual jokes, like a home literally picked up and moved and a young Wonka’s “world journey”, and wordplay via a perfect vessel in Depp. Although the character of Wonka is familiar to audiences, Depp’s version is another of his original eccentrics. He’s been quoted as saying he modeled his look after Vogue editor Anna Wintour and personality after children’s TV show hosts, but in spite of his denials, there’s at least some Michael Jackson in there. His Wonka can be creepy, but that’s okay since it matches the film’s darker tone. Depp is very funny in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. David Kelly gives a sprightly performance as Charlie’s Grandpa Joe, and Highmore’s earnest portrayal of Charlie adds the dose of reality needed in a movie with its head in the clouds. Attempts to provide Wonka’s backstory can slow down the film’s momentum, but overall Burton puts an enjoyable twist on a beloved story while justifying the remake's existence.
(A shorter version of this review first aired on the July 19, 2005 NOW PLAYING)