Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Semi-sweet

I have a contentious, but by no means unique, perspective on this film. I’ve both read the classic Roald Dahl story and watched the 1971 Gene Wilder version and enjoyed both a great deal. But this is sort of a different creature than both. Plotwise it’s closer to the book (and the one major deviation was easily the film’s weakest point), but tonally the ’71 version was closer to the Dahl original. This film was very, very dark, and quite creepy. As always, it’s all Johnny Depp’s fault, as he seems to become the defining character for pretty much everything he’s in. And he’s good in this as a Wonka completely disconnected from reality. It’s weird: offbeat is funny, until it passes a certain line and becomes scary. This version of the story definitely crosses the line. And that’s really it’s defining characteristic, tonally.

Vis-a-vis production values: it’s Tim Burton; you hardly need ask. The fantastic is fantastic, the nostalgic is nostalgic, and the music is by Danny Elfman. The secondary characters…. well, they’re hardly there, and they’re such stereotypes any good actor could phone them in. Deep Roy is the only actor other than Depp to be really at all taxed by this script, and he does a good job. The actors are fine in their own ways, but it’s really a one-man show. Which brings me to an interesting oddity of naming: this viersion is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; the ’71 one was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but in comparison that seems backwards. Charlie is hardly in this one’s story: he gets snapped at by the other children and directs occasional pleasantries at Wonka, and that’s more or less it, whereas in the version that’s not named after him, he gets into trouble, has personal dramas, etc. Of course in both (and even in the source material) he’s a Good Little Boy. Dahl was generally subversive, but his Charlie was a total tool. This film’s actually more subversive than the book, if only because heavy freakassedness-exposure is purported to be bad for kids.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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