(2005)4Cammila CollarCharismatic and visually stunning, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a bizarre and funny take on this well-known and well-loved morality tale. While the film is an adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl, it remains difficult to avoid comparing it to the 1971 film by Mel Stuart, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This more recent adaptation was not meant to be connected to the story's earlier incarnation, however, and that may be problematic for fans who are looking for Gene Wilder's coy interpretation of the eccentric candy man. Johnny Depp makes his Willy Wonka less of a slyly charming eccentric and more of a true-to-life shut-in--with a healthy shot of cartoonish fun thrown into the mix. Depp's Willy Wonka isn't a quick-witted father figure with a good-natured plan to teach a lesson to naughty children; he's genuinely shocked and disgusted by the behavior of these greedy youngsters and their maligned parents. His fantastic characterization and charm overpower the absurd comparisons to Michael Jackson, not least because his Wonka doesn't even seem to particularly like kids. Freddie Highmore's performance as Charlie is a breath of fresh air in child-acting, as he remains the only good-hearted kid of the bunch without so much as approaching saccharine. And of course, some mention must be made of Tim Burton's genius take on the Oompa Loompa(s): how many times the awesome Deep Roy had to shoot each scene to create his many alter-egos, we may never know. All these well balanced parts fit together for a compelling story that balances the viewer's need both for dry, unforgiving humor and for childish wonder and hope. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not nearly as suitable for children as its predecessor--the scene in which Veruca Salt is pinned to the floor Gulliver's Travels-style by a group of angry squirrels would be terrifying to a small child. This isn't a strike against the film, however, as this isn't so much a children's movie that's enjoyable to adults, but rather an adult film that will be loved by children. Even actual fans of the book should be delighted as the movie, above all, achieves the bizarre, otherworldly quality of Roald Dahl's work, seducing even the most jaded and corrupt grown-ups to its message with laughter, fantasy and awe.
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