Good time Charlie
Chocolate Factory update improves upon ‘70s version
While not as fresh as one would expect from the supposed traditionalist approach implied by marketing, the new Tim Burton update on the Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach) classic still manages to offer up a dark confection that should enthrall both children and their adult escorts (and even those who don’t need no steenking children as an excuse).
Whether from the book or the 1971 Gene Wilder vehicle Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or just from pop culture osmosis, we all know the routine: Eccentric confectionaire and hermit Willie Wonka announces that after 20 years of gated secrecy he will allow entry to his factory to five lucky children who manage to find a golden ticket stashed within the wrappers of five of the billions of chocolate bars distributed around the world.
When the five are gathered, he takes them on a tour of his phantasmagorical candy works, where everything is edible, even him. Things turn dark however, as the obnoxious kids are taken out in a candy cane variation of SE7EN, until only good boy Charlie is left to accept his special prize.
There is really nothing new here that wasn’t touched on by the earlier version, aside from more lavish special effects and a darker tone (for the most part … the ending is a bit toothache-inducing in its cloyishness). As usual, Johnny Depp turns in an expected oddball characterization that this time comes across as Mr. Rogers trapped in Michael Jackson’s body, with all the incipient and barely contained madness that would ensue from that calamity.
Contrary to the advance word, this entry is as much a musical as its predecessor, with a Danny Elfman-scored number following each of the brats’ exits (mimed by South Asian homunculus Deep Roy, who with CGI plays all of the Oompa Loompas). New touches by Burton involve back stories such as Wonka’s discovery of the Oompas and his early relationship with his dentist father (an always welcome Christopher Lee).
If nothing else, this is a visual delight, and for those like me who didn’t particularly like the ‘70s version, a welcome alternative.