starring johnny depp, helen bonham carter, and some kid as charlie
directed by tim burton
tim burtons new film is unnecessary, imperfect, uninspired, and yet magically entertaining.
its dark, its colorful, its funny, and its an excellent re-make of a classic that didnt need to be remade.
the set design is creative and inventive, you definately get a sense of a differnt land, and once youre inside the chocolate factory you’re happy that burton was behind it all because he’s never had a problem mixing childlike fantasies with nightmarish twists.
johnny depp is weird enough to play wonka and does a fair job of his love/hate relationship for children and actually accomplishes the daunting task of owning the role despite the masterful job gene wilder did in the original.
but probably the best part of this, and perhaps the reason for the remake is the theme of family, best represented by charlie’s close-knit and loveable clan of three generations all living under one seussian roof.
there are several hurdles a director must clear when remaking a beloved tale, the tallest of all being how do you tell a story that everyone knows? and in this case knows quite well. we know charlie is going to get the golden ticket, we know the kids are going to fuck up on the tour, and even though it’s tim burton at the wheel once we meet the charlie character we’re pretty sure that he’s going to win the surprise prize cooler than what your wildest imagination could fathom.
not only does burton take us down the familiar ground, but he includes enough new touches, namely the 21st century oompa-loompahs, to keep us on our toes.
so thats the good stuff. and there were enough good stuff to keep this blogger satisfied on a sunny weekday in a mostly full airconditioned theater in the summertime. in fact many in the matinee crowd clapped at the end.
despite the fact that…
you cant replace gene wilder’s trippy eyes and haunting singing voice, you cant improve on the spooky original loompahs deep voices and pyschedelic outfits, all of the characters are flat as pancakes either angelic clueless or evil,
and inspite of the fact that depp isnt all that funny even when trying to be funny.
and why the hell would you put helen bonham carter in this film if all youre going to have her do is say oh charlie and stir cabbage soup?
the music is forgettable, there were more novel details in pee wee herman’s bachelor pad than there were in the entire chocolate factory, and some of the backstory of wonkas history is utterly ridiculous the worst being his first bite of chocolate.
if youre going to make children evil, make them really evil, just because a kid is destructive and likes video games doesnt make him bad. have him walk down the street pulling fire alarms, letting air out of tires, and putting bottle rockets up animals’ asses.
but then tell us why hes so bad. people arent born viscious, they learn it somehow, and since you have their pu-pu-puh parents right there blame them if you must. but these kids werent nearly as bad as i wanted them to be – and not nearly as wicked as their predecessors.
my guess is that in order to get a PG rating Burton had to tone down his typical schtick. huge mistake. currently im watching the original Bad News Bears to prepare to screen that remake and when Tatum O’Neil gets introduced to the team one of the kids complains “Jews, Niggers, Spics, and now a girl?” thank God filmmakers and studios didnt pander to review boards in the 70s as much as they apparently do now.
willie wonka and his chocolate factory are freaky dark icons perfectly matched with tim burton and johnny depp. and even though this movie doesnt reach its full potential, its entertaining and light despite its unnecessary moral.
i could sum this up with some cheesy allusion to candy or nuts or bubble gum, but i’ll leave that to pretty much every single film
critic hack who considers themselves clever. predictable is never clever. which is why charlie shoulda been black and willie shoulda been robin williams. but in an era where remakes are shitty standard summer fare, this one didnt suck.