Anthony's Film Review

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Johnny Depp's performance falls flat, but the movie still works with its visual wonder and character focus...

I'm not going to resist that urge to compare different versions of the same story. I could try, but comparisons are so interesting to share that it would be a shame not to. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory exists in three forms: the original book by Roald Dahl, the 1971 movie with Gene Wilder titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and this 2005 release directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. Now, I hadn't read the book before seeing this movie, but I did watch the 1971 movie a long time ago. Therefore, I will compare these two movie versions towards the end of this review.

The beginning of this movie is very well done. We get to know the character of Charlie Bucket and his living condition: a dilapidated house with a slanted door, a hole in the roof and attic floor, the ground floor being one giant room with a kitchen and a bed for all four grandparents, a mother who stays home and cooks, and a father who soon loses his job. We also get to know Charlie's love for Wonka's chocolate that he can only afford once a year on his birthday. And through Grandpa Joe, we learn about Willy Wonka's chocolate factory that had to close its gates when spies from other candy stores steal his secret formulae. And yet, people still love Wonka's chocolate as it continues to be made.

Then Wonka announces a contest to give five children a tour of his factory if they find a golden ticket inside the wrapping of a Wonka bar. The first four winners are all bratty kids: a fat German boy with an endless appetite for Wonka's chocolate (Augustus Gloop), an American girl who excels at everything (Violet Beauregarde), an American boy who is a video game addict (Mike Teavee, who in the original story is actually a TV addict), and a spoiled British girl who demands anything she wants (Veruca Salt). A fifth winner is mentioned briefly before it turns out to involve a fake ticket. As you expect it, Charlie finds ticket number five by chance.

Now the kids, each with a parent or guardian, step in front of the factory doors. And when I say that the beginning of the movie is very well done, I mean it. The moment Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka makes his first appearance, I was subjected to some uninspired acting and dull lines. I didn't think he brought something unique to the Wonka character and portrayed him in a way that was likable and memorable. At least the kids are interesting to watch when the shots focus on them. I also like the visuals throughout the factory, making it a place of wonder and mystery. And I like the Oompa-Loompas as they provide dance numbers after four of the children are cruelly punished by accidents thanks to their own character flaws.

Now I compare 1971 and 2005. There's no doubt that Gene Wilder was a better Willy Wonka because he was more humorous and delightful, even though this new movie follows the Dahl novel more closely with a less friendly Wonka. This new version provides more backstory about the Oompa-Loompas and Wonka himself, which still works nicely. And I think the ending is much better in this one than in the 1971 version. But all of this doesn't mean I favor one or the other. I like them both equally for their own strengths. Even with weaknesses in both, I don't think a third movie version is needed.

Despite Johnny Depp's weak performance, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a good film. It's a fun ride with a charming beginning and end. For the most part, Tim Burton has gotten the story right. I know from others that fans of the book will surely like this movie. If you never read the book, you'll still like it.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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