Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

2006-03-30 13:10


Little Charlie Bucket is the poorest boy in town. His whole family - mum, dad and both sets of grandparents - live in a tiny ramshackle house and survive on cabbage soup. Charlie's house also happens to be right next to the biggest and most extraordinary chocolate factory in the whole world - a factory owned by the eccentric Mr Willy Wonka. Charlie dreams of one day visiting this magical factory and sampling its delights.

One day Willy Wonka makes a momentous announcement. He will open his famous factory to five lucky children who find golden tickets hidden inside five randomly selected Wonka chocolate bars. As, one by one, children around the world find golden tickets - Charlie's hope grows dimmer. But then, something wonderful happens. Charlie finds some money on the street and buys a Wonka Chocolate Bar. There, under the wrapper is a flash of gold. It's the last ticket. Charlie is going to the factory!


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an extraordinary and captivating film - a must for anyone with children, not to mention anyone who's still a kid at heart. Director Tim Burton has successfully brought to life one of the world's most beloved children's stories - and done so in grand style.

I'm sure Roald Dahl himself couldn't have picked a better director than Burton to bring his story to the silver screen. Both men share a curious and powerful combination of traits - a childlike fascination with the fantastic mixed in equal parts with a dark, almost menacing taste for the macabre. This seemingly contradictory mixture lends their work an irresistible magnetism that has won both men hordes of fans around the world. Like all great storytellers both Dahl and Burton understand that chubby fairies and fluffy bunnies don't make for great stories - unless there's a monster hiding somewhere, waiting to pounce.

Another reason that Burton is the ideal director for this project is his mastery over the visual aspects of his films. Where Dahl's great gift was conjuring up visions of fantastic creatures and places, Burton's gift is bringing these visions to life and making the impossible concrete. And Burton is at the top of his game with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - cramming the film with vivid, sumptuous visuals. He is aided in no small measure by veteran cinematographer Philippe Rousselot - currently Burton's collaborator of choice. The art direction is also particularly impressive with massive props and gorgeously detailed sets.

But as fabulous as the movie looks, the real core of its success is its faithfulness to the original material. The parts of the film where Burton holds the most true to the book are without exception the most successful. His representation of Charlie's fellow visitors to the Factory for instance - from the disgustingly obese Augustus Gloop to the hideously spoilt Veruca Salt - are both faithful and delightful. When Burton's changes are small - embellishments that only add to the sense of fun - they are successful. As soon as he meddles with the basic mechanics of the story - most notably by injecting Willy Wonka with an absent father complex - he drains away the wonder on which the story runs.

For all his talents Burton couldn't have accomplished what he did without his excellent cast. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka, in particular, is the linchpin on which the film turns. He brings a delightfully subtle nuttiness to the role, perhaps not as flamboyant as Dahl's original, but just as endearing. With his nervous giggle and his slightly distracted air - Depp's Wonka floats through the film like an overgrown daydreaming schoolboy living in the world's biggest toy box.

Freddie Highmore, seen recently in Finding Neverland, gives a solid performance as Charlie - but his wide-eyed earnestness and grumpy frown are becoming a bit wearing. He may not be a one-trick pony but his current roles are making him seem like one. The supporting cast of nasty brats that accompany Charlie to the factory do justice to their roles, as do their beastly parents. The actors are gracious enough to make the most of the grotesque, one-dimensional characters for which Dahl was so famous, rather than trying to steal the limelight with selfish grandstanding.

Another delight is Deep Roy who, through the marvels of modern CGI, plays an entire tribe of Oompa Loompas (Wonka's miniature factory staff). The Oompa Loompa's song and dance antics are one of the highlights of the film - just as they were of the book.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is neither a perfect adaptation, nor a perfect film. But Burton gets so much right that it's hard to care when he gets a few things wrong. Like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, this film is just about as perfect as a big budget Hollywood adaptation can get.

- Alistair Fairweather

Tim Burton's gloriously loopy adaptation is a visual masterpiece that will captivate children and astound parents.

Hannelie 2005/07/22 9:07 AM
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory A wondrous movie! Takes you right back to your childhood. Marvellous performances from the kids. Takes a bit getting used to Johnny Depp, though - at first glance he looks very much like a Michael Jackson wannabee, but overall a good, eccentric performance. Only drawback is that all the Oompa-Loompas are the same actor and one can't hear what is being sung by them. At least the kids (all five of them) enjoyed it thoroughly!
benwal 2005/07/23 8:19 AM
Charlie and the chocolate factory Charlie and the chocolate factory
jode 2005/07/24 4:03 PM
fantastec 4 no
Andy Wang 2005/07/27 9:01 PM
Charlie and the chocolate factory Very bad compared to the first charlie the chocolate factory.
nicholas orsmond 2005/07/31 11:36 AM
charlie & the chcolate factory it is an amazing movie that i loved but it is a bit of an adult movie! charlie and the chocolate factory
Samantha 2005/08/05 3:31 PM
Charlie & the Choc Factory very disappointed with this one, the first one is much better as compared to the book,
*** 2005/08/10 12:26 PM
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Did not watch the first movie but thought this was quite enjoyable. My daughter loved it. The chocolate river and sweet garden was beautiful - a candy lovers dream. Definitely recommend.
james 2006/02/17 8:41 PM
WHAT! How in the world did this get number 3 any other movie but this
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