PG for quirky situations,
action, and mild language
July 15, 2005
Arts and Science Fiction/Fantasy
Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore,
David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Deep Roy
BASED ON NOVEL BY:
Warner Bros. Pictures
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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
By Belinda Elliott
I’d been anticipating the release of Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory for months. There are few movies
that I rush out to see on opening night, but this was one of them.
The film more than met my high expectations.
In the story, based on the book by Roald Dahl, Charlie Bucket
(played by Freddie Highmore) lives with his parents and grandparents
in a small, run-down shack on the edge of town. One day the town’s
infamous candy maker Willy Wonka (played by Johnny Depp) announces
a contest in which five lucky winners will be allowed to tour
his candy factory, and one lucky child will receive an additional
surprise. The candy maker inserted five golden tickets into his
chocolate bars, and the five children to find them win the contest.
In a twist of fate, or perhaps divine intervention, Charlie finds
one of the tickets and invites his Grandpa Joe, who worked at
the candy factory years ago, to join him on the tour.
The true magic of the film comes through director Tim Burton’s
(Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Edward Scissorhands)
imaginative portrayal of the fantasy land inside the candy factory.
For fans of the original 1971 movie, starring Gene Wilder, the
plot will be very familiar. However, some details have been added
that help to develop the story beyond the original film.
For instance, we learn about Wonka’s past and what led
him to become a candy maker, as well as what led him to isolate
himself from the outside world. These details help endear the
audience to the peculiar chocolateer, despite his strangeness.
We also learn the fate of the other four children whose mischief
during the tour put them in some troubling predicaments. This
plot addition helps bring that part of the story to a satisfying
Although Burton is often known more for his somewhat dark and
unusual films, this one is actually rather uplifting and offers
an admirable morality while imparting a few lessons in good behavior
for children, and good parenting for adults. The film is also
quite family-friendly with no profanity and only one innuendo
that could be construed as slightly off-color, if you want to
take it that way.
is the perfect choice for the role of Wonka. He gives a strong
performance as the quirky, self-absorbed, and socially inept candy
maker. Complementing his performance is child-star Highmore, (Finding
Neverland and Two Brothers) who brings warmth and
sincerity to the character of Charlie and to the film overall.
As I exited the theater a lady standing a few rows behind me
commented that she would “stick with the original movie.”
For people who are not fans of Tim Burton’s unconventional
films, this may be their response as well.
For me, the film was an improvement over the 1971 one –
although I enjoy that one also. Burton and screenwriter John August
(Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels and Charlie’s
Angels: Full Throttle) follow the storyline in Dahl’s
book more closely than the original film did, and their added
back story fills in gaps that make the story more meaningful.
The only weak spots in the new adaptation are the revised song
and dance numbers by the Oompa Loompas (all played by actor Deep
Roy). While they do follow the songs in the book nearly word for
word, the routines are uninspiring and the combination of fast
rhythms and overly loud music renders the lyrics undecipherable
for the most part.
Despite the tiresome dance routines, the film is humorous and
enjoyable. Like the original version of the film, there are some
scenes that may be a bit intense for the youngest of viewers.
But most children will be able to see the moral message behind
the madness of Willy Wonka.
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