When I first heard that they were making Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, I was immediately turned off. After all, Gene Wilder's performance in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is dearly loved and revered by movie-goers the world over. So, how can one truly come to appreciate a different take on what is considered a childhood favorite? This is what director Tim Burton and screenwriter John August (better know for his excellent work in Big Fish) set out to tackle and I must say I was surprised by its sweet, yet dark flavor.
What is immediately apparent in Charlie is that this movie stands on its own. For lack of a better descrition, this is not a remake. August takes much of his inspiration directly from Dahl's books, interpreting what he calls a "timeless" story where the Golden Rule never ages. Meanwhile, Burton utilizes an almost entirely set-built production. Throughout the movie, bright colors, wide angles, and imagination takes center stage on what I consider the quintessential Tim Burton film. Everything from certain aspects of the town, to Wonka's factory is entirely built on one of London's largest sound stages. It truly adds a certain tangible element where fiction and reality are blurred, leaving the imagination to focus on the story and characters at hand.
Speaking of chracters, there are two that I would like to specifically touch on. First whom is Willy Wonka. I know many of you are doubtful that Johnny Depp could pull off what is needed for Wonka, so let me lay your fears to rest. Depp is not Gene Wilder, nor does he attempt to play or recreate that personality in any such way. Instead, he is much more eccentric, and well, downright goofy. I found myself laughing at nearly all scenes involving Wonka, silently applauding the superb acting pulled off by Depp. The next character I wanted to detail are the Oompa Loompas. So, how does Burton decide to handle these iconic characters? Why, give the job to one man. That's right, one man, Deep Roy, singlehandedly played every single Oompa Loompa you see onscreen. To top it off, the whole thing works. Its almost creepy at sometimes, but then I came to enjoy their appearence in the musical numbers. Also, the only musical outburts in this movie are those performed by the Oompa Loompas. No more cheesy songs from Granpda Joe or Charlie's mom. For the fans of the books, know that the composer Danny Elfman, was 95% faithful to the lyrics written by Dahl and each song has its own style.
As I was watching Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, I couldn't help but feel that the movie feels so familiar, yet is so much different that the departure is within the grasp for those willing to take a risk. Certainly, the backstory on Wonka is a big risk, but I believe it pays off in order to complete the chracter and story arcs lain before us. I'll just conclude that I haven't had this much fun watching a movie, nor laughed as much, in a good while.