Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald
rfmcdpei

[REVIEW] Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Having seen the new Tim Burton-directed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Saturday night with of_evangeline and blue_hearts, among others, I can attest to the essential truth of David Edelstein's glowing Slate review. This film works very nicely indeed by returning to Roald Dahl's vision. Dahl, like all good children's fiction authors, realized that the gory and moralistic imaginations of children require satisfaction. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory provides this satisfaction, ensuring that the four flawed children who accompany Charlie Bucket into Wonka's factory receive the individualized punishments that each deserved while Charlie--ordinary, average Charlie--profits enormously. While I think that I enjoyed 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory back in the day (elementary school, to be precise), from the perspective of an adult fan of children's literature the film was too soft, too marked by Gene Wilder's benevolent and knowing smile. It needed edge.

The audience got that in spades, with Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka. Unlike our third-quarter 20th-century counterparts, we early 21st-century types know that adults who seclude themselves on their own private estates in order to devote themselves entirely to their creative and personal visions suffer serious problems. Michael Jackson is a perfect example of this. It's perhaps not a coincidence--though Depp says it is--that Depp's Wonka reminded me of Jackson, with a traumatic personal history (a candy-hating dentist father) coupling with justified paranoid fears of betrayal to produce a man at odds with others. Wilder's Wonka was kind and caring; Depp's Wonka is abrupt and often malevolent, commenting without sympathy on the children's failngs and not getting others' reactions. This worked wonderfully.

I did have some issues with the film. While Deep Roy did a superb job of playing the Oompa-Loompas, the whole theme of a jungle tribe transplanted to an industrial world so as to serve as labourers did grate a bit. The characters surrounding Wonka--Charlie, his family, the other children, their parents--were all portrayed well, Helena Bonham Carter's Mrs. Bucket coming particularly to mind, but all were marginalized by Depp. As Edelstein notes in his review, the fusion of early 21st century Britain and Victorian British literary topos doesn't quite gel. For all these flaws, I enjoyed the film. May Burton, and Depp, make many more like it.
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