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A Sweet Film, For the Most Part

  • Jan 28, 2010
It's no secret that the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory became a cult classic hit after it's strange flop in theaters.  What people don't know right off hand, is that Roald Dahl absolutely hated it because it deviated from his book a little too much.  In fact, Dahl hated it so much he refused to sell the rights to any of his books for years.  When he finally did sell the rights to another book, it would be just before he died (and from that you received the movie: James and the Giant Peach).  Nevertheless, the 1971 film still remains a cult classic.  And deservedly so.  In 2005, Tim Burton released another adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Burton himself doesn't consider it a remake of the 1971 classic... and true enough it really isn't.  If only because it's so strangely different that comparing the two would be like comparing apples and bananas.  It's a very different film from the 1971 version, but that doesn't make Tim Burton's adaptation bad, in the long run.  Burton wasn't out to reimagine what was done in 1971... only out to see if he could make another adaptation that might be closer to Roald Dahl's book.  So throughout this review just keep in mind three things:  1. I loved the 1971 film a great deal.  2. I rather liked Burton's adaptation as well.  3. I just don't care about comparing.  The 1971 version and the 2005 version are two different takes on the same book, but I don't that Tim Burton's version isn't like it.  

You know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Most of you reading this saw the original 1971 film, I'm sure.  Even if you didn't, you probably know the story in some ways.  Charlie comes from a poor family that's barely getting by.  From his Grandpa Joe he hears stories of Willy Wonka who made lots of tasty candy.  Joe used to work in the factory until Wonka discovered that some of his business competitors were sending people to work for him.  As a result, Wonka fired all who worked in the factory... including Joe.  Yet it still produced Candy.  Though no one really sees Willy Wonka anymore.  And no one is allowed inside the factory.

Until one day Wonka holds a contest.  He has hidden five golden tickets around the world and whoever finds his golden tickets will be able to tour his factory.  Four Children find them almost immediately.  The over eating Augustus Gloop, the spoiled Veruca Salt, the over-achieving addicted gum chewer Violet Beauregarde, and the television and video game obsessed Mike Teavee.  One ticket remains and it just so happens that Charlie finds it.  Although at first he doesn't want to tour the factory because people are willing to pay top dollar for the ticket.  After taking some advice from his family, he decides to go.

From there you all know this story.  How Wonka has invited these children in to find out which of them is good enough for his factory.  There's a lot of zany things that happen, including going to a couple of different rooms where the children will all meet their fate, in part because of their weaknesses.  Augustus's appetite, Violet's over achieving and need to chew gum, Veruca's spoiled "I want it/give it to me," nature and Mike's obsession with television are all downfalls.  

Since this is a Tim Burton movie what sticks out first and foremost is the art style.  You always know when you're watching Tim Burton thanks to some of the art direction.  There are some crazy sets put up and a few imaginative sets as well.  It might surprise many to know that Burton didn't rely on a lot of CGI for them either.  They're actually built sets and they look wonderful.  There's also a bit of dark humor thrown into the mix as well.  Johnny Depp hops on board to play Willy Wonka, though he said himself that he did not want to try and outdo Gene Hackman.  Depp believed Hackman truly established the character and so he set out immediately to do something different.  It works, as Depp truly establishes himself as something different, though it may not be for the best.  Johnny Depp's performance as Wonka is, for the most part, pretty good... but it's hard to watch the film and not think of Michael Jackson with the overly pasty and pale complexion in his skin... and the way he talks.  Of course, Willy Wonka can't stand children.  Yet it is a little hard not to draw the comparison.

Freddie Highmore hops on board as Charlie and he does a rather magnificant job here.  He portrays the kind of innocence in Charlie that you would expect to see from a well behaved child who isn't set on misbehaving like the other kids are.  It works rather well in this case.  Highmore and Depp, of course, worked together before (it was Depp who suggested Highmore for the part of Charlie).  It manages to work out for the better.  Aside from those two, however, much of the cast isn't quite as memorable or as splendid in their performances (except for maybe Grandpa Joe) but that doesn't mean they do a bad job.  It simply means they're not the guys you'll be paying much attention to. 

As you all know, comparing a film to its original source material is not usually something I'm too big on.  But I like to go into it for those who are curious.  The problem with it this time is that people are looking at two different kinds of source materials.  One which Burton drew nothing from at all (the original 1971 film) and the other which Burton tried to stay close to (the original 1964 book).  In this case we'll stick to the book since that's what Burton was using as his motive for making the film.  For the most part it's pretty close to the book with minor differences thrown in.  As I said in the beginning, Roald Dahl hated the 1971 film so much that he refused to sell the rights to any other film until the end of his life.  This came as a result of more than just the original not being close to the book.  This also came as a result of Roald Dahl's suggestions being blatantly ignored.  The original 1971 had musical numbers (very catchy musical numbers, I might add) but Roald Dahl didn't like them at all.  Actually Dahl had written music that he wanted performed in the 1971 original that the film makers didn't exactly like so they didn't use them.  Those musical numbers are actually put into Burton's 2005 release.  Dahl also didn't like getting rid of the Squirrels.  Again, also in the 2005 release.  So those who loved the book will be happy to know that Tim Burton was a bit more respectful to Roald Dahl's wishes and was better in attempting to stay close to the book. 

On the other hand it sort of gives you an idea as to why the 1971 film was done the way it was done.  Much of what Burton keeps in tact from the book works in almost the exact same manner as the book, but not each and every moment is executed well.  The musical numbers here, while good and are, in fact, the lyrics Roald Dahl wanted... just sound a little cheesy.  In the Squirrel sorting sequence that was also included, you feel like Burton stuck in there just so that we could hear Johnny Depp say, "Don't touch that squirrel's nuts!"  Zing!  In short, some of the writing could use a touch up.  That's not to say there are no comedic moments worth while.  The welcoming show to Wonka's factory is pretty cool, especially where Wonka shows up at the end clapping and asking his guests, "Wasn't that wonderful?" and they all stare at him strangely.  Tim Burton's humor is often hit or miss type stuff and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is full of it. 

Yet the only portion that really truly seems odd and misplaced is how Burton insist on putting in that relationship between Wonka and his father.  These moments sort of break up the fun we're having.  And while Christopher Lee is quite a good actor in the role, it seems like something we don't exactly need in the long run of the film.  More than that, the ending is just a tad bit overdone with Wonka going to see his father at the very end.  It's just too silly and weird--even for Tim Burton.  It doesn't exactly add much to Wonka, though it does provide us with a reason as to why he's so bitter.

As to the 1971 original, I'm actually not sure why movie-goers aren't allowed to enjoy both films as stand alone creations.  Each time I mention that I happened to like Burton's film I'm always attacked by vicious, crazed fans of the 1971 original... with people accusing me of never having seen it or just being taken in by the fact that it was Tim Burton or that I'm too young to appreciate the original (as if the original didn't come on a billion times before the 2005 reissue).  Relax, guys.  Chill.  I do happen to enjoy the orignal 1971 film a great deal.  It's one of my favorites.  That doesn't mean that Burton's movie is somehow bad.  There's such a different approach taken artistically that for the most part comparing the two just seems... well... stupid (and even dumber is these same people will get pissed off when a movie doesn't follow a book it's based off of... but they'll defend Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory... which is just... strange, but I'm guessing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory gets a slide because they didn't actually read the book anyway).  I applaud these guys for having such a devotion to the original, but to say that the 2005 version is bad because it isn't the 1971 version means that instead of looking at the film based on its own merits, you're looking at it based off the merits of another film.  That's not how movies are to be evaluated.  They need to be evaluated based on their own merits.  So I don't care if it's anything like that 1971 film.  I can watch that one any time I want and still do, and still enjoy it heavily. 

That shouldn't discredit those who worked on the 2005 adaptation.  It's still an imaginative film, in spite of some of its flaws and nitpicks.  For the most part it can be enjoyable.  Although there are parts that are a little annoying it's still a fun movie complete with all the dark humor and just all around gloom that Tim Burton is sometimes known for.  Just remember that it's okay to like both the 1971 film and the 2005 film and enjoy the book.  See how that works?  How you can actually like all three even though one is just a book... one ignores the book and the other throws in a crappy ass backstory on Wonka?  I'm just saying there's nothing wrong with enjoying the best of everything when it comes to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and admitting that one doesn't have to be better than the other to still be enjoyable.

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September 24, 2010
Exceptional review. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is one of my favorite films of all time a wondrous magical film that works on all level and stands out as one of Burton's best works to date. Excellent work.
January 31, 2010
Nice review. While I appreciated that Burton wanted to make a film that was more true to the book, I loathed this movie. It just lacked the magic and wit of the book and Burton's sense of humor clashed with Dahl's. I remain a die-hard fan of the original 1971 film, even if Dahl wasn't.
February 01, 2010
I never thought either film had any sort of "magic" compared to Dahl's book but I rather enjoyed them just the same. If there was anything about the 1971 movie I didn't like it was actually that we didn't learn exactly what happened to those who were punished. Even before reading the book (I admit to seeing the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory before actually reading the book) I was curious as to what happened to them. But, you know, I think that as a film they both worked.

I just get very tired of this idea that both can't be good and that because one is better it means the other is bad. I'll throw a bone to the fans of the 1971 film and admit I thought that one was a better movie, but it's this idea that because that one is good it means Burton's adaptation is bad. I never actually understood that kind of thinking among the movie going community because it just doesn't make sense. The sort of "You can only have this or that!" kind of mentality. It's like saying to a kid, "You're only allowed to enjoy ONE flavor of Ice Cream and ONLY ONE!" Well, Dammit if I want to like Chocolate AND Vanilla I'm going to like Chocolate AND Vanilla!

Although I never understood why authors were so upset when a movie didn't follow their book either. For some reason people seem to act as though the movie's existence will somehow blank the book out (while ignoring that because of the movie they get increased book sales). It usually doesn't. I can deal with all three of these without expecting one to actually be the other. With how much I enjoy reading I might NEVER like a movie.

Although with this one I have more of an understanding with those who don't particularly like this one. This one will probably end up being a cult classic as well. There's really not much in between. Seems like people either like it or they don't.
February 01, 2010
By no means am I saying that both versions can't be good. After all, I loved the first two remakes of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", but on that same principle one can't claim that both versions of "Chocolate Factory" are as good as the other. For me, the new one just lacked charm and Dahl's humor, which were replaced by Burton's own humor and it didn't gel with that of the book.

As for authors being upset about a film not being faithful to their book, it is true that a film can be a way to attract more people to the book, however it can also make people not want to see the book. As far as I'm concerned, so long as the essence of the story remains intact, then it's okay if the adaptation leaves out or adds to the original source material. In the case of "The Lovely Bones, for example, it failed miserably on both counts.
February 02, 2010
Well, no, I get all that, I just never really thought that a movie capturing the charm and majesty of a book necessarily made it good, and I never thought that a movie neglecting to capture it ever made it bad, you know?  I like to note it, but I have a hard time stacking a film's merits against it.  I just feel that a film has to be given credit based on its own merits.  I like to talk about the differences between a film and a book, but what I'm hoping people realize is that I never think a movie based off a book is bad because it's not like the book.  The Lovely Bones, for example... I was a lot more bothered by Peter Jackson's approach and filming technique more so than its detractions from the book... it's why I was thinking, "Man, even if you didn't read the book it's still terrible!"

So I agree that, sure Burton's humor didn't gel well with the book... although I never found Roald Dahl all that funny to begin with (Roald Dahl fans can kill me later) but just the same... that wasn't too important to my asessment of the film in and of itself.  I like to throw that in there for people who are curious but it's far less important to my own rating as a whole.

On the other hand, I am beginning to sympathize with people more on that much more... which is why I started to talk about the differences... but I'm still holding firm to the belief that it doesn't seem a movie being closer to the book really makes much of a difference to the quality of the film itself.  You'll be happy to know I'm gearing up a review for the 1971 version.  I'll give you a hint, it'll be a more favorable review than this one.  All I have to do first is watch it once more.  It'll certainly be more fun that movie is an important part of my childhood.  I hope you'll appreciate that little write up when it gets here.
February 02, 2010
Well, I basically agree, except that I feel each story has sort of a soul to it. A general purpose or meaning intended by the author that has to be respected and represented on screen. Now, that doesn't mean you have to include every little detail, character, and incident or that you can't make alterations, omissions or additions to the story... but that story has to be represented in some way that is faithful to the source material. It's the whole point of an adaptation, to have a story be translated from one medium to another. So, naturally, it is necessary to compare the two and examine the qualities (or lack thereof) of both.
February 02, 2010
I get what you're saying, I'm just not sure if you understand that in the end... I review a film based on its merits as a film and not so much on its merits as an adaptation.  The 1971 movie is just better because it's a better movie... as an adaptation, though?  Well, not so much.  I don't actually base my ratings or my reviews.  I just want to make sure that you understand that... whether or not it's close to the book has very little to do with my overall rating and review.
February 02, 2010
No, I totally understand what you're saying. You review a film adaptation solely as a film, whereas I review it as both a film and an adaptation. When I rate a film, like LotR for example, I take into account both the over all quality of the film, but also the quality of the adaptation. It's just a different way of going about it is all. If a film can succeed on both levels even better. : )
January 31, 2010
I saw bits and parts of this movie but I never did finish the whole movie. Sounds pretty interesting...I'll give it a rent.
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 2005  film adaptation of the 1964 book of the same name by Roald Dahl. Directed by Tim Burton, the film stars Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket and Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. The storyline concerns a young boy (Highmore) winning a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by an eccentric candy maker (Depp).

Development for another adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory began in 1991, which resulted in Warner Bros. providing the Dahl estate with total artistic control. Prior to Burton's involvement, directors such as Gary Ross, Rob Minkoff, Martin Scorsese and Tom Shadyac had been involved, while Warner Bros. either considered or discussed the role of Willy Wonka with Nicolas Cage and Jim Carrey.

Burton immediately brought regular collaborators Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman aboard. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory represents the first time since The Nightmare Before Christmas that Elfman contributed to the film score using written songs and his vocals. Filming lasted from June to December 2004 at Pinewood Studios in England, where Burton avoided using digital effects as much as possible. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released to critical praise and was a box office success, grossing approximately $475 million worldwide.
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Movies, Comedy Movies, Family Movies, Kids Movies, Tim Burton Movies, Johnny Depp Movies, Book Adaptation, Roald Dahl Movies, Willy Wonka, Helena Bonham Carter Movies
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