Charlie & The Chocolate Factory: A review

The girls have the original movie, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” on DVD and they love it. Laini read the book in school so she knew what to expect. Yesterday, I took the girls to the new movie, even though I thought the trailer [a little creepy]( I want to talk about it without worrying about spoiling it for anyone, so the rest in the extended entry. **SPOILERS ABOUND! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.**

Right off the bat, it’s a Tim Burton movie. If you’ve seen a Tim Burton movie, you know what that means and this movie doesn’t break the mold. The music, the colors the shapes, the sounds. It doesn’t matter if the movie is [Edward Scissorhands,]( [Batman](, [the Nightmare before Christmas]( or [Beetlejuice]( there’s a “feeling” to a Tim Burton movie and this one has it, bigtime. Willy Wonka cuts the ribbon to his new chocolate factory and then poses for a moment with the scissors…if that isn’t a nod to Edward I don’t know what is. Tim Burton movies take truth, warp it just enough to know that we’re looking at something warped, and then put it back in the box as if nothing is out of place. His movies are mainsteam, but they want to be “art.” Art doesn’t have to mirror reality, just reflect it.

So the “it’s Tim Burton” line explains the costume, color and set decoration choices. And the Danny Elfman soundtrack. More about Tim Burton than the Ronald Dahl book.

If that was it, I wouldn’t bother blogging about it. I found it a far more complex movie than I expected. The original movie had Willy Wonka as an eccentric, magical father-figure. Gene Wilder’s Willy understood the human condition, or he thought he did. He thought knew what made children tick and he looked down on them and their parents, judging their actions. That’s why the fizzy lifting drink thing was necessary in the first movie and not in the second. Willy needed to make assumptions about Charlie’s character and have those assumptions turned over. Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka is barely a child himself. Acting on impulse, reacting. He created the chocolate factory because candy was the one thing that empowered him a child and separated him from his father. The fact that others would find joy in what he does didn’t even cross his mind. Depp’s Willy doesn’t understand why people do what they do. They confuse and scare him. When his workers betrayed him, he was more confused than angry. When he says to one of the fathers, “you’re really weird, aren’t you?” he isn’t insulting him. To insult someone you have to know that your remarks will hurt and Willy doesn’t have a clue. When he kept yelling at Mike Tevee that he was mumbling, it wasn’t that he understood the question and didn’t want to answer it. In Wonka’s mind, what was coming out of Mike’s mouth *was* mumbling.

I loved that the only musical numbers were by the Oompa Loompas, and that the kids questioned how they were so choreographed…like they knew something was going to happen. As strange as the Wonka world is, even there it’s not normal to break out in song.

So I didn’t see Johnny Depp channelling Michael Jackson. I saw him playing a character that has no connection to anyone other than himself, who created something great, almost by accident. The Oopma Loompas are much smarter and more worldly than Willy Wonka, and they help him realize that he has to find someone he can trust to take over the factory.

All 5 kids, like in the first movie, are extremes. No surprise there. I loved that this movie showed the consequence of each child’s actions, good and bad. In the first movie, Willy Wonka tells Charlie that the kids will be as good as new and will go right back to the way they were before. This movie doesn’t have that line, and instead shows in a brief scene that each child’s life will forever be changed. Why? The kids are the same but the *parents* learned their lesson. Augustus Gloop’s mother tells him to stop eating (even if it’s his own fingers), Veruca’s father tells his daughter “no” for the first time, I forgot exactly what Violet and Mike’s parents said, but they were weary and regretful, even if their kids weren’t.

In the first movie, Willy Wonka was the moral center in his own sick & twisted way. He knew right from wrong and he was looking for that child that met his vision. In this movie, the moral center is Charlie. Charlie wants chocolate and toys like other kids, but he sees the folly and treat in it where no one else does. In the end, Charlie’s life doesn’t change that much because the movie shows that aside from extreme poverty he never had it that bad. The point of the story is that if you put one thing above all else, you can’t realize your full potential…whether that one thing is chocolate, television or just cocoa beans (in the case of the Oompa Loompas).

I think I need to re-read the book to see which movie was more faithful. Tim Burton probably got closer.

My girls enjoyed the movie. Wasn’t their favorite, but they sat through it all without complaint. We ended up having a discussion afterwards about the 5 kids and how they weren’t being punished for being who they were, they “lost” for putting one thing above everything else in their lives. A little chocolate is just fine, swimming in it is not. We’ve gotten the most mileage out of Veruca. We’ve been having a lot of talks lately about appreciation. How you can ask for a toy or a treat and not have it be totally about getting it. My kids know that nothing will set me off faster than starting a sentence with, “When can we buy…” So this morning when that dreaded sentence came up in conversation I called one of the girls “Veruca” and she got it. It’s not just about being spoiled, it’s about getting the golden ticket and then asking for a pony. 😉


3 responses to “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory: A review”

  1. It’s not just about being spoiled, it’s about getting the golden ticket and then asking for a pony. 😉

    That’s a wonderful comment. Must remember it.

    And thanks for the review. I haven’t been psyched about seeing it, but now I’m interested.

  2. I’m envious of my kids…

    they got to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I had to work yesterday. It’s just not fair. I just imagine that this is a role tailor-made for Johnny Depp. And, with Tim Burton directing and Danny Elfman’s…

  3. Great review, Judi. I have to point out that the author is Roald Dahl, not Ronald. Forgive me. I’m a writer. 🙂
    Plus Dahl is my daughter’s favorite author. Your girls should check out “The Twits” and “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.”

    This is a movie I want to see a 2nd time, just to catch all the extra touches and references. I totally caught the Scissorhands pose. But I disagree with what you said about Willy accusing Teevee of mumbling. I think that was a nod to the original movie – when someone says or asks something Wonka doesn’t want to hear, he claims he’s deaf in that ear – different ears each time. 🙂

    My favorite scene was the Loompas doing synchronized swimming. I should write my own review.