Directed by: Tim Burton
Premise: An adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book. Down on his luck Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) wins a ticket to visit a magical chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp).
What Works: The film has the silliness and energy that are characteristic of a Burton film. The level of choreography between the subjects and camera exceeds anything Burton has done before. Johnny Depp brings a very quirky and child-like quality to the character of Willy Wonka. It’s a performance that is easy to overlook but Depp is exerting careful control over himself and walks that line between madness and genius but adds an element of innocence that makes his portrayal unique. It reaffirms the strength of the relationship between Burton and Depp; like Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese or Marlon Brando and Francis Ford Coppola, this is an acting-directing pair that complements each others work.
What Doesn’t: The film lacks a dramatic rise and fall both within scenes and in the overall story. Too little time is spent with the first act, and we do not get any sense of urgency. Within scenes, Charlie’s acts of altruism do not convey the personal cost to him and so they fail to capture the heroism of his sacrifices. The final act of the film is really clunky. The story abandons the climax that it has been building to and goes off on a number of tangents and so it has multiple denouement but none of them are resolved satisfactorily.
Bottom Line: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is fun and it plays on fairy tale conventions. What it lacks dramatically it partly makes up for in its style and in Depp’s performance. Fans of the original film may be disappointed by this version’s lack of bite, but like any good remake, this version re-imagines the content and plays to the strengths of contemporary filmmaking tools.
Episode: #61 (July 24, 2005)