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Thread: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  1. #1
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    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – A film by Tim Burton

    Before I begin a review of the current film, let me just state the similarities between this film and the original 1971 film by Mel Stuart. Both films are about Willie Wonka, the five golden tickets, the five children (who possess the same personalities and have the same ignominious ends), the four old people in the bed, and the Oompa Loompa’s. There are similar settings such as the edible room, the river of chocolate, and the flying elevator. These were prominent parts of the book and should be included in with the story.

    The first film was a musical. In fact, one song, “The Candyman Can,” was recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr. and became a big hit. Anthony Newly, who composed many songs for Broadway and also had an acting career, wrote the songs.

    The Tim Burton film is a far darker and more mysterious version of the book. John August's screenplay (Big Fish) has given us not just a Wonka with more depth, but also more history. We are told why Wonka went into the candy business; how he got started; and what happened that made him a recluse from society. In fact, this Wonka is far more complex than the Gene Wilder version, which was slightly more whimsical. For this Willie Wonka, the world stopped years ago, perhaps decades ago. However as time has caught up with him, he has delineated his fortune to the child that will take care of his Oompa Loompas. Naturally it should be Charlie, right? But not necessarily so; and that sense-of-the-unknown quality is what separates this Wonka from the Mel Stuart 1971 version.

    The emphasis on this film from start to finish is about family, and how important that support is, whether present or lack of, influences and affects our lives as long as we live. For Charlie, family is everything. But Wonka can’t even remember his childhood; and when he does, it is full of frightening images right out of Freud’s book of parental nightmares. This looking at the world through dark glasses is a constant theme for Tim Burton. He has continually used the themes of death, the color black, and misshapen images to present a world that is morbid at best… Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow, etc. were all patterned after that same dark warped imagery that borders on being a page ripped out of a psychoanalysis session with Salvador Dali.

    The Oompa Loopas do not smile, and are clones of the same being (thanks to CGI). They do a moralizing dance and sing about the ethics that each kid lacks (as in the original film). But here, we see an endless supply of them, stamped out like mindless creatures performing everything (except the nuts, which squirrels do better). We’re almost ready to drop them in the trash heap as unlikable, too; when it turns out they have a surprise contribution to the story. There is also a new twist on the ending.

    I was delighted by the in-jokes, the double entendre, and the symbolism Burton and August added to the story. Yes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a remake. But I believe the remake is even better and perhaps a bit sweeter than the original.

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    That Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a better movie than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ('71) is highly apparent to me. So much so I think Charlie will practically replace the older film, not live alongside it, for future generations of moviegoers. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory constitutes a perfect marriage of director and material, and the the newly-penned Wonka backstory adequately rounds up the plot without detracting from Dahl's tale. The best improvement over the original might be the music score_I didn't like Anthony Newley's songs, which I grant is entirely a matter of opinion. The only reason for future audiences to watch the original is Gene Wilder's performance. Depp merely provides an amusing, alternative reading of the character, not one which makes you forget Wilder's Wonka.

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    Yes, but...

    oscar jubis comments on this new update are interesting for further comment.

    Music as oscar points out is very subjective just like film. The musical update of the new version using hyper-energy, rock-pumping sound is more generational than anything (even though). Strangely this new version of music seems oddly retro back to the 70s, 80s, while the original version (1971) probably echoes back to the 50s musical era. Each movie is somewhat frozen in time for its popularity and taste as music many times will do (a fascinating movie topic/issue in itself).

    Johnny Depp while as oscar describes as "amusing" is seemingly much more than "amusing" however. With the backstory, Depp brings a much more fascinating, complicated personality, character with past issues - his particular character quirks are much more highlighted and given a fuller exposure by Tim Burton and in some ways increases the presence of Willy Wonka to a far greater extent than in the original where both Charlie and Mr. Wonka are equal in terms of their importance to the movie in their own way.

    I can't see that Tim Burton was a perfect marriage to the material. There were a number of scenes that bordered if now went over the line in terms of children book material.

    ** Spoiler**

    The gross scenes of burnt, melted dolls were more attuned to a horror movie for adolescents than children. The squirrals attacking the girl were reminiscent of The Bird's horror classic.

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    Re: Yes, but...

    Originally posted by tabuno
    Johnny Depp while as oscar describes as "amusing" is seemingly much more than "amusing" however. With the backstory, Depp brings a much more fascinating, complicated personality, character with past issues -

    I qualified Depp's performance as "amusing", meaning his facial gestures, body movements, voice inflection, slowed rate of speech delivery, etc. It's John August, the scriptwriter, who is responsible for this "backstory" not included in Dahl's book.

    I can't see that Tim Burton was a perfect marriage to the material. There were a number of scenes that bordered if now went over the line in terms of children book material.The gross scenes of burnt, melted dolls were more attuned to a horror movie for adolescents than children. The squirrals attacking the girl were reminiscent of The Bird's horror classic.

    Fairy tales have traditionally included "strong" thematic elements, from Perrault and the brothers Grimm to Dahl and modern children literature.
    The film received a rating of "G" in Canada, and "PG" in the conservative US of A for "Quirky situations, action, and mild language". The scenes you describe qualify as "quirky situations". None of the toddlers at the saturday matinee I attended seemed the least bit perturbed. This is no "horror movie for adolescents".

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    Good Meaningful Descriptors

    oscar jubis: I qualified Depp's performance as "amusing", meaning his facial gestures, body movements, voice inflection, slowed rate of speech delivery, etc. It's John August, the scriptwriter, who is responsible for this "backstory" not included in Dahl's book.

    tabuno: The specific elements that you describe for "amusing" are theatrical components of acting that unfortunately don't seem to be given sufficient focus or attention when discussing movie on this board. Your list rightly captures the elements to focus on, however, it seems that you diminish and in fact imply that Johnny Depp's performance wasn't anything to really be excited about. For me Gene Wilder's performance while engaging represents that past genre of childhood of entertainment of naivete and fairytale dreams. Johnny Depp's performance raises the bar for children's movies and allows young children to experience a more qualitatively meaningful and relevant movie performance than Gene Wilder's. Depp's Willy Wonka exposes children to the notion that grown ups themselves have pasts and have their own insecurity and weaknesses and that even children can provide some sense of place and insight for adults too. I think that the Wonka/Charlie focus was a strength of this movie that Gene Wilder was not able to provide in terms of human growth and understanding. Grown ups too have quirks, have issues with children. Depp uses both adult/child language, in a squeaky voice that imitates somebody who has more growing up to do and who actually takes to do so when face with somebody who tell him "no":

    ** spoiler **

    Charlie's refusal to take over Wonka's factory if it means losing his family.

    oscar jubis: "Fairy tales have traditionally included "strong" thematic elements, from Perrault and the brothers Grimm to Dahl and modern children literature. The film received a rating of "G" in Canada, and "PG" in the conservative US of A for "Quirky situations, action, and mild language". The scenes you describe qualify as "quirky situations". None of the toddlers at the saturday matinee I attended seemed the least bit perturbed. This is no "horror movie for adolescents"."

    tabuno: I'm surprised one would rely on the movie rating to defend a movie's contents as such ratings have traditionally be viewed with some skepticism, especially when it comes to violence. I think the phrase "strong thematic elements" is minimizes and glosses over the two horrific scenes I've mentioned. Not only are to two graphic scenes more than thematic they are literally scenes that could be transferred directly into a horror movie. Of course this movie is "no horror movie for adolescents" and no such implication or suggestion was made in my comments. The toddlers that were in the theater where I was at where actually more listless or wandering around the theater than engrossed in the movie it seemed as I think that not all the movie was consistently on a level that toddlers would be engaged to watch straight through. The a mass attack of squirrels surround with almost voracious intent, this scene was as real as The Birds movie that you apparently haven't disputed. The melting grotesque, melting heads are directly from many horror movies, not holds barred were made with a long sweeping pan shot of this whole fiery display that you didn't directly comment on. Personally I was shocked and almost repulsed by both scenes in a children's movie - both scenes were something I would imagine would be some children's nightmares.

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    I posted before I read other reviews and was shocked when I read the revelations in both Ebert's review and A.O. Scott's review in the NY Times. Both men state the resemblance and mannerisms of Depp's character (and characterizations) as being those of Michael Jackson. They both drew numerous comparisons. I did not mention this to anyone else going to see the film. The reason I felt that important is because looking back on it, I believe that sort of pre-judgment would have spoiled the film for me.

    I personally did not make that connection and I did not care for the tone Ebert took in his review. While Depp's performance is underplayed compared to Wilder's antics, there is still an underlying feeling of a man on the verge of mania. Wonka is unstable and not quite right in the head. He must read off cards rather than express any real feeling or emotion, as if his feelings are either totally inadequate or perhaps suppressed to the point of being non-existant.

    The one scene in the film my son and I loved was the squirrel scene. We loved seeing the children getting attacked by the birds in "The Birds" and we loved the fact that Baruca got what was coming to her. It's not that we're sadistic, or even like violence, it's more the absurdity of the situation. Anyone can swat away something like a bird. But only Hitch can make us afraid of them. It's silly and it's fun at the same time. Michael and I laughed when the squirrels jumped on her, knocked her on the head and figured she was a bad nut. We were hoping her father would get the same treatment.

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    Depp's Performance

    cinemabon: "While Depp's performance is underplayed compared to Wilder's antics, there is still an underlying feeling of a man on the verge of mania. Wonka is unstable and not quite right in the head. He must read off cards rather than express any real feeling or emotion, as if his feelings are either totally inadequate or perhaps suppressed to the point of being non-existant."

    tabuno: I agree with cinemabon's reference remarks earlier in the above comment regarding resemblances of Depp's performance to Michael Jackson, as I also made this connection while I watched the movie, yet I didn't really mind the association, in part, I guess I was one of those that didn't feel upset by Mr. Jackson's aquittal from child molestation charges. [The accuser's family was well portrayed with a history of false accusations for extorting money raising reasonable doubt]. cinemabon's description of Depp's performance is excellent and very on target - a performance that I felt was meaningful, understandable, laudable in its possible reality...a creative and fascinating character portrayal in a children's movie. As a social worker, there is much to be said for emotional abuse as a child and its impact on people in their adulthood.

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    The original film is fairly good entertainment but I'm one of those people who wants an update.

    The oompas in the Wilder film are creepy to the max.
    Some songs just make you wanna groan.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Burton's take. Johnny's the man!


    Willy Wonka is like Michael Jackson?
    Say it ain't so...
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    My take

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Review by Chris Knipp

    Slick unease: Tim Burton's beautiful but nasty Roald Dahl remake

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may be disquieting but isn't as creepy as you'd think from the parallels people have drawn between Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka and Michael Jackson. Parallels there are, mind you. Willy is of feminine appearance, with wig-like straightened hair, sickly smile, and too-perfect, unnaturally pale face. He lives in a preserve that's Neverland-like, the chocolate factory he's done over to resemble a candy jungle. Big difference: he doesn't like little boys -- doesn't like children at all.

    If Tim Burton's Willy Wonka isn't quite Michael Jackson, who is he? For one thing, like Edward Scissorhands (in his first appearance he's got giant scissors in his hand) Willy's a remarkable misfit who can't relate to ordinary people. If you're feeling ordinary, this typically beautiful but strange motion picture from Tim Burton may arouse mixed feelings. Its initial sense of order and logic turns to unease when Depp's Wonka appears. After a while the whole elaborate spectacle wears out its welcome as its little initial core of warmth goes cold. Not so different from many a classic children's story, I guess, it's full of terror and random cruelty. And like so many of those, it sprints to a happily-ever-after finale that leaves our unease unresolved.

    Ostensibly the story celebrates a happy family and offers hope to victims of bad ones. Willy's a sad adult who can't pronounce the word "parent" but is saved at the end by regular dinners at Charlie's house -- becoming a partial member of the loving little household. Despite such poverty they've had to live on cabbage soup, Charlie chooses unhesitatingly to remain with mum, dad, and all four grandparents, who sleep together, the grandparents do, in one bed in the center of the little gingerbread house.

    Willy -- in flashbacks not in Dahl's story -- is seen with dentist father, made to wear a hideous cage on his head slightly exaggerating the orthodontic braces once actually used. Dentist dad forbids all sweets, and Willy becomes obsessed with them.

    Wonka's become a huge success in business by leaving home early, and it's an understatement to say he's a genius inventor. He works miracles. Adapting the children's tale, Burton deals only in superlatives. Everything is the best, the most, the most typical. The chocolate factory is the biggest in the world by a multiple of hundreds.

    The factory's been closed for twenty years but still mysteriously produces vast quantities of universally coveted sweets. What happened to all the townspeople left unemployed by the official closure? The movie doesn't tell, except that Charlie's grandfather is bravely poor, in his cozy bed. Five golden tickets are randomly planted to allow five children to visit the secret factory -- this, it turns out, is to find an heir -- or, as the joke is, a hair, because discovering one gray one during his biannual haircut made Willy realize he needs somebody to take over the factory when he grows old.

    The movie's based on the old-fashioned moralistic concept of good vs. bad character. Except for Charlie, each of the other children with golden tickets is dominated by an evil trait: gluttony, snobbery, ambition, or pride. Charlie alone is loving, modest -- and nice. Freddie Highmore of Neverland, who works with Johnny Depp again playing Charlie, has a sweet spontaneity that makes Charlie's goodness likeable and real.

    The factory setup and the ranging of children types is marked by stereotyping and even racism, beginning with the fat roly-poly German family with their gluttonous son whose father runs a sausage shop, and continuing with the snobbish English people, the technology-mad Americans and the obsessive, competitive American females with the mother who pushes her daughter to win prizes in meaningless things. She's going for a Guinness record for longest time chewing the same piece of bubblegum. Strangest and most perverse of all, Willy Wonka has brought little creatures from a country where they adore coca to be his slave workforce -- the Oompa Loompas -- who're all clones of the same tiny Indian man (Deep Roy) -- a model of at-home outsourcing, perhaps. The conceit is as astonishing as it is weird. Burton has his nasty cake and eats it too, because the less likeable children are done away with at first, and then brought back and allowed to leave the factory, if somewhat the worse for wear. That and Willy's final redemption seem weasely on Burton's part.

    There's a song and dance routine done by the Oompa Loompas at each of the bad children's moments of downfall and it's pointed out early on that this means Willy had everything planned. But he pretends his worker-entertainers are just good at improvisation. The very idea of such a thing in such an elaborately staged movie is a huge joke. Tim Burton is the most calculating of cinematic artists, and a master of high kitsch.

    Particularly disturbing is the way the spoiled child of James Fox's snobbish English nut factory owner (Julia Winter) is attacked by dozens of squirrels and she and Fox are thrown down a tube to be smothered in weeks-old rotting garbage. The chewing-gum girl's fate, being blown up into a huge ball and turned blue, and the technology boy's, being shrunk and then stretched wafer thin, or the German kid's, being jammed into a chocolate-filled tube, aren't really any nicer; in fact their damage is more permanent. Depp's pronounced American accent is a curious inconsistency. He did manage a good Scottish one for Neverland.

    It's a happily incestuous crew. Depp has worked with Burton famously before, and Depp has worked with Freddie Highmore, and Helena Bonham Carter's a Burton regular who's back with Depp as his dead bride in Burton's coming delight, Corpse Bride, which will also feature Oompa Loompa Deep Roy.

    There's no doubt Tim Burton has a gift for the menace and unreality of children's literature, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for all its beauty and exactitude, is an indigestible confection.


    Posted on Chris Knipp website.

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    A Descriptive, Comprehensive Recap

    Chris Knipp has done it again, created an elegant concise synopisis of important highlights of the movie that offer great points with excellent descriptive adjectiveds that reflect the nuance of the visual/auditory experience of selected scenes for future discussion. **Warning - his description is so complete that it literally gives away almost every important element of the story.**

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    Thank you very much, you're too kind. I do "give away" some elements of the story, but I found these things in the mainstream reviews I saw and most of them would be in Roald Dahl's book. A detailed comparison of the book and previous movie with the new one will be found in J.R. Jones's "must see" review in The Chicago Reader.

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    I doubt if many people have not seen the original film or read the book so apart from delving into details of the added back story it's unlikely that the film will be spoiled.

    Who would have thought though that Johnny Depp would come across as more disturbing than Christopher Lee, the Lord of Darkness himself.

    As far as the typecasting with the children goes, again this is staying true to the book, I'm sure it won't upset many. A hell of a lot of US films and TV programmes would be flushed down the pan if we decided to clear everything that typecast different races, The Simpsons for one is very guilty of this although they of course offer the world a typecast view of the average American family and can be quite witty at times.

    Cheers Trev
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    trev -- Oh I agree with you; I wasn't disapproving of the stereotyping, just noting it. It's a characteristic of children's stories to have things spelled out very clearly, and in the nature of storytelling and filmmaking that people must be cast as villains, etc. Everything about traditional children's stories is politically incorrect, I guess and Dahl's book had some stuff in it that he was pressed to change in later editions.

    I just learned this mornng that a dwarf actors group is protesting the use of Deep Roy to play -- through digital cloning -- all the Oompa Loompa workforce singlehandedly when dozens of little people could have been given work. Now that's a valid point, a practical labor issue that ought to be addressed; but the other issue is that Burton must be given the right to his own unique vision.

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    I couldn't figure out from the review what made the movie "indigestible" for you. I guessed it was the "stereotyping" but my guess was wrong since you were just "noting it".

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    I'm "just noting it" but it's still part of what's indigestible--you were right. It's the whole combination that's indigestible. There are too many confusing and unpleasant (and pleasant) mixed sensations being dealt out, like a cloying desert, which is just what it is, a huge drooling chocolate, like the Rajah's palace, that won't go down. Too sweet, too elaborate, and too unpleasant at the same time. It's like a desert that looks so good you gobble it up and then you feel sick. This isn't my best effort since that apparently isn't clear.

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