What is it with Johnny Depp’s fascination for chocolate? First he dates a woman who owns a chocolate store (Juliette Binoche in Chocolat), now he’s into making it himself in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But who cares? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a must-see for those of you who like a fairytale, eat chocolate and love a Tim Burton movie.
Who hasn’t read Roald Dahl’s great book? A poor kid named Charlie wins a trip to Willie Wonka’s magical chocolate factory, along with a bunch of spoilt, rich, unsympathetic kids. While Wonka gives them the full tour of the factory, one by one each kid is kicked out in a true Roald Dahl manner: a bit mean but not too scary for the little readers. Naturally, our young hero Charlie is the only kid to escape that fate and he wins the best price ever: the factory is his!
Gene Wilder’s interpretation of Willie Wonka in the first adaptation of the book came off… psychedelic, so I was very interested to get the reaction to the new adaptation, and surprised to find it even better. It’s a typical Tim Burton film: colour-coordinated, funny and bizarre. Very bizarre. I mean: the Oompa Loompas make whipped cream by whipping cows?
The factory tour is a feast for the eyes. The first scene with the welcome puppets brought my own troubling experience at Euro Disney to mind. The ‘it’s a small world after all’ ride from hell to be specific. Puppets in traditional costumes from all over the world singing that happy song as you pass them by in your little carriage. During my particular ride, my carriage got stuck and I had to listen to the song over and over again… a nightmare. In the movie, this frolic until melancholy shtick is presented in a more charming manner.
Johnny Depp is just the man to play Willie Wonka. Yes, there is the Michael Jackson resemblance. The pale face, the high-pitched voice, the giggle… no sense in denying it. But is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. Best of Depp’s performance is the hidden disgust in children. And his teeth! Burton gives us a glimpse of the chocolatier’s background: Wonka became the weird person he is because of his childhood. During the factory tour, there are flashbacks of Wonka’s youth. His father was a dentist who wouldn’t allow him to eat any candy. Ah! The poor boy had to wear the biggest braces you have ever seen. Again, here is a Wacko Jacko resemblance: wasn’t it also his father who pushed him so much? To go against his father’s will is the main reason Wonka got into the chocolate business. Christopher Lee plays Wonka’s father. Excellent choice, because if anyone can present a more scary image than Michael Jackson’s dad Joe, and add a touch of camp, Lee is just the man.
The only tacky part to me is the ending. But then again: it is a children’s story. When Charlie is offered the factory as his prize, he turns it down because it means he has to move away from his family. Wonka suddenly realizes that he has missed having a family, and misses his father. Charlie and Wonka go see him and all ends well. Burton’s message was, as he stated on the movie’s website: “It’s a beautifully simple message, in this world where people are always striving after material things and success.”
Remember to get yourself some chocolate before you go in the cinema. You can not watch Oompa Loompas swim in chocolate without at least eating some yourself.