CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
This remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory comes from Tim Burton. Tim Burton is a director with an estimable genre career see below for Burtons other films. There are few directors who seem so perfectly suited to remaking Willy Wonka than Tim Burton. Burton seems to live inside the Chocolate Factory himself with his perpetual fascination with the eccentric and offbeat I am unable to think of a single other director where you could say that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is their material. The remake was announced on and off for several years with possible directors such as Gary (Pleasantville) Ross, Rob (Stuart Little) Minkoff and Martin Scorsese (!!!) and various names mentioned as potential Willy Wonkas including Nicolas Cage, Christopher Walken and Robin Williams, even shock rocker Marilyn Manson in the lead role at one point (although, it is hard to tell if this was a serious casting choice or just rumour mill).
With Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton provides a great many things that the original Willy Wonka lacked. Where Willy Wonka was clearly set in a factory that had merely been dressed up with psychedelic paint, Tim Burton has the near-unlimitedness offered by an A-budget and uses this to provide lavish sets that turn the factory floor and tunnels into a surreal dreamland. The Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka were dwarves; the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are one single little person dwarf actor Deep Roy who has been endlessly digitally replicated. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also offers the distinction of being generally more faithful to the Roald Dahl book than Willy Wonka was it returns sections that Willy Wonka excised (probably for budgetary reasons) of Veruca being attacked by the squirrels, as well as the flashback vignette to the story of Prince Pondicherry. It also borrows the very start of Roald Dahls sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1973) where Willy and Charlie fly the glass elevator back to visit his parents. The songs throughout are all based on lyrics that Roald Dahl wrote in the book.
On the other hand, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also adds a number of things that are neither in the book nor the previous film. The film extends the ending where Wonka makes Charlie his heir by now having Charlie initially refuse Willys offer because he will not let him bring his family with him and decide to return home but then have Willy change his mind about these stipulations. The most notable of the additions is a backstory. We learn that Charlies grandfather was previously an employee of the Wonka factory. We get a number of flashbacks that give us a Willy Wonka origin story, taking us from his childhood, his discovery of a love of candy after having been forbidden to eat it by his dentist father, to the discovery of the Oompa Loompas. Here Tim Burton invents a whole story about Willys relationship with his stern and authoritarian father (played by Christopher Lee) and their eventual reconciliation. This also mirrors the plot of Burtons previous film Big Fish (2003), which was also about the reconciliation between a young hero and his difficult father. (It should be noted that these familial reconciliation themes have suddenly popped up in Tim Burtons films after his own father passed away in 2000 and his mother in 2002, both of whom Burton has said that he was distant from).
I must admit that, despite the presence of people that one admires like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and being a much more lavishly produced than the original, I was disappointed with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is hard to exactly put ones finger on what the problem is. Certainly, the film has everything that one expects of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory zany absurdism, Roald Dahl-esque just desserts fates for horrid children, Burton-esque eccentricities and Johnny Depp giving an expectedly strange performance. Somehow it doesnt blend into a satisfying whole. The backstory and parental reconciliation adds new things but there is the sense that the remake does not need them the first film worked perfectly well the first time around without them, here it just seems the modern obsession with motivation having been taken too far.
The joy of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was Roald Dahls sense of black humour the sense that bad children get evil punishments that one can cheer along. Tim Burton is a director who in films like Pee-Wees Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988) and especially films he has produced like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Cabin Boy (1994) seems perfectly attuned to Roald Dahls cruel and malicious glee. Only Burton miscues it here and the ending of the film in particular waters the black humour down to a twee sentimentalism, a positive upbeat endorsement of family togetherness that is as a far away from Roald Dahl as one can possibly imagine. There does seem something in Tim Burtons past few films Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001) and Big Fish that is lacking in the sublime eccentricity and wacky imagination that drove earlier films like Pee-Wees Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Ed Wood (1994). One is starting to wonder if maybe Tim Burton has lost his touch. To his credit, Tim Burton did regain his stride with his next film, the fine stop-motion animated Gothic fantasy Corpse Bride (2005), although his subsequent films Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows (2012), Frankenweenie (2012) and Big Eyes (2014) are still lacking.
The other problem with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one felt, was Johnny Depps performance. Depp comes across as supremely weird, as though he has just arrived from another planet. However, it is a performance that fails to connect with the film in the same way that Gene Wilders Willy Wonka did in the original. I think Gene Wilder is a terrible actor who never ever managed to give a performance without shouting it out at the top of his lungs, while on the other hand I think Johnny Depp is a great actor who has been excellent in just about every film I have seen him in. Contrarily though, Willy Wonka was almost certainly Gene Wilders best ever performance, while Wonka is one of Johnny Depps more forgettable. Gene Wilders performance had a simplicity to it that vied between over-exaggerated warning and theatric indifference to the childrens fates and a dark menace that was perfectly attuned to Roald Dahls gleeful malice. On the other hand, Johnny Depp seems like a snobbish butler who looks down on the children as though they had just made a bad smell and plays almost the entire performance in a series of peculiar double takes. What is lacking in Depps performance is a sense of menace he seems more like a strange man with a pasted-on grin who emotes entirely with his wavering eyebrows. The same could also extend to the rest of the film. Somewhere in the over-elaboration of the sets and the addition of the backstory, the gleeful cruelty of Roald Dahls story has been buried. The result comes out as a peculiarly lifeless confection.
Tim Burtons other films are Pee-Wees Big Adventure (1985); the bizarre ghost story Beetlejuice (1988); Batman (1989); the genteel artificial boy fairy-tale Edward Scissorhands (1990); Batman Returns (1992); Ed Wood (1994) about the worlds worst director; the alien invasion spoof Mars Attacks! (1996); the ghost story Sleepy Hollow (1999), the remake of Planet of the Apes (2001); Big Fish (2003) about an habitual teller of tall tales; the stop-motion animated Gothic fantasy Corpse Bride (2005)); the horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007); Alice in Wonderland (2010); the film remake of the tv series Dark Shadows (2012) the stop-motion animated Frankenweenie (2012); and Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children (2016). Burton also produced Henry Selicks darkly brilliant puppet fantasies The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and James and the Giant Peach (1996), as well as the live-action conte cruel Cabin Boy (1994), the animated 9 (2009), Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015) is a fascinating documentary about Burtons failed Superman Lives project.
Roald Dahls other films are the short-lived anthology tv series Way Out (1961), which Dahl wrote for and hosted; the screenplays for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967), the childrens film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and the psycho-thriller The Night Digger (1971); the anthology series Tales of the Unexpected (1979-81), which he also hosted and adapted his macabre short stories for. The BFG (1989), Nicolas Roegs The Witches (1990), Danny DeVitos Matilda (1996), Tim Burton and Henry Selicks animated James and the Giant Peach (1996), the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Steven Spielbergs The BFG (2016), all adapt his childrens books.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was parodied in Epic Movie (2007).
(Nominee for Best Production Design at this sites Best of 2005 Awards).