06 November 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Brothers 2005)

When I was a poor kid, I really identified with the Charlie and The Chocolate Factory book by Roald Dahl. Living in that ramshackle hut with all of his family and never complaining. The idea of him dividing scintillas of the Wonka bar over the year between one birthday and the next struck a chord. It was many years before I learned that there was a film version of this book. It came out in 1971, full of psychedelic colors and weird ideas; it seemed like that chocolate was easier to digest with a hit of LSD. Nevertheless, I liked that movie a lot.
When I heard that Tim Burton was going to tackle this story, I thought: Great! I am a big fan of Tim Burton and his capability of using childlike eyes to spy a world fit for adults (even adults who see the world through Goth lenses). But then I had a horrible flashback. I remembered a world overrun by talking apes; stupid plotlines a rapper turned rapper: Planet of the Apes. Batman was his kingmaker film but Planet of the Apes proved that he could wreck one of my favorites by remaking it. Well, Planet of the Apes was a fluke. Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory captures the spirit of the book and only strays a ways to tell the story, do it in less than two hours and satisfy Burton’s need to use his films as psychotherapy.
For the uninitiated: Willy Wonka is a reclusive chocolatier who shut the doors to his factory years back. All that comes out the Wonka gates are Wonka bars of all varieties to the joy of children everywhere. Then, one day, he puts out a call: there are five golden tickets in his chocolate bars. The bearer and one guardian are allowed access. Four annoying brats procure tickets. Plus, poor Charlie.
I always liked the Wonka factory for the sheer stupidity of it. Most factories have conveyor belts and ovens. Willy Wonka’s factory is a magical place with dwarven Oompa Loompas, nut cracking squirrels, purple inducing candy and problematic teleporters. It’s a dangerous place for children: full of ironic justice and just desserts. I was thinking: “sure you can shut out the world, but how do you explain the squirrels and rivers of chocolate to those food inspectors?”
In the shadow of the Michael Jackson trial, Willy Wonka with the velvet clothing and Prince Valiant haircut rings creepy. Seeing Wonka usher in a number of children and ply them with chocolate actually felt uncomfortable: like a parable of the Michael Jackson case. Of course, that isn’t the case, it’s just a sad case of bad timing. Put that out of your head and you can fully enjoy the magical tale of Charlie’s journey through Wonka’s factory. It’s full of touches: equally sarcastic and colorful. This movie is more entertaining than the 1971 musical; and closer to the book.

This movie comes is available on DVD


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