ninth symphony films - movie reviews

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)


DIRECTOR  -  tim burton

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  fantasy

LENGTH  -  115 minutes

RELEASED  -  15 july 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the chocolate factory

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $150,000,000
charlie and the chocolate factory - a shot from the film

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SYNOPSIS:
a young boy wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world's most unusual candy maker.




MOVIE FACT:
there are buttons in the elevator marked incompetent fools, t-bone steak, jell-o, secretarial poodles, and nice plums.


MOVIE FOTOS:

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory

picture from charlie and the chocolate factory



RATING:


three out of four possible stars

Sporting one of his most interesting personas yet, star Johnny Depp takes on the well-known character of "Willie Wonka" with the zeal of someone who is routinely known for the lack of routine in his performances and in Tim Burton's rendering of Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," Depp brings to life a quite different Wonka than Gene Wilder's circa 1971 version. The Willie Wonka of 2005 is a man very much at odds with everyone but himself and most of the words that come out of his mouth have the purpose of insulting a kid or telling somebody about his chocolate factory.

It probably wouldn't be quite correct to call Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a remake since another version of Dahl's book has already been put to the screen and it's possible that director Tim Burton was more interested in creating a different type of theatrical experience rather than a movie that simply rehashed the original. Indeed, even the difference in title (the 1971 version was called, "Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory") would suggest Burton's aim was to create a wholly different beast.

And in many ways he has. The most obvious updates and changes involve updated pop songs, computer generated effects, and a Willie Wonka who, while the character is performed with excellence by Depp, seems to have less going on upstairs and is much more interesting to listen to than he is to think about. For all of Wonka's intelligence in creating unique candy inventions and chocolate bars, he's a strangely flat character. Even the creation of a father (played deliciously by Christopher Lee) and a series of flashbacks (Wonka's father isn't mentioned in the book) doesn't do much to make the character very well rounded.

And perhaps this is the result of having experienced the 1971 version, but the Wonka of the 1970's had more going on than just a love of candy and a hatred of all things human. And Johnny Depp's version of Wonka shows his hatred of children (and adults usually) in every single word he utters. By the end of the film, it's difficult to take sincerely anything the character says since he's so incredibly rude for the duration of the film. Rudeness can lead (and does lead) to laughs in many of the scenes, but this is due more to Depp's performance than to any qualities of the character himself.

It's like Wonka is a man whose jokes and insults are funny and whose wardrobe and make-up efforts are striking, but whose destiny is something that's difficult to care anything about. It is therefore fortunate that young Freddie Highmore was cast as the down-on-his-luck "Charlie Bucket," as his performance encompasses a much more likeable character. But while audiences will probably find it easy to care about what happens to Charlie and will want to see where he ends up by the closing credits, his character too is somewhat flat regarding depth and wisdom.

Charlie is such a pure soul who never utters a single wrong word or has a single wrong thought and who, excepting the external forces which ping on him and make his life difficult, he has no inner struggles beyond choosing a year's supply of chocolate or some money for his family. And strictly speaking, that struggle is something external as well. Charlie has no jealousy, rage, or intensity and his questions and conjecture are consistently timid and angelic. Makes for a cute kid but like the Wonka character, Charlie Bucket doesn't really change emotionally over the course of the film.

This failing of "depth" regarding the two lead characters just might be a failing of the script, but it could also be the result of meddling executives who wanted the film to sport more song and dance (literally, song and dance) and less character turmoil. Or it could also have been a time issue. The special effects and pretty costumes were chosen to take up screen time rather than showcasing interesting character arcs. This is one area that the 1970's film actually did better: Willie Wonka and Charlie Bucket both were changed emotionally by the end of the film.

Even in a brainless action film, the audience needs the protagonist and/or the antagonist to undergo some sort of change, and that doesn't really happen in this film - and it's not even an action movie. Viewers of Tim Burton's films can usually expect certain characteristics like inventive costume design, off-beat musical score, and immersive production design and while Charlie exhibits each of these trademarks, it's worth noting that the source material is particularly conducive to Burton's style of filmmaking.

Production designer Alex McDowell has done a fantastic job of creating Charlie's world, though it is also evident that the visual style is akin to many of Burton's films and can't really be labeled "unique." The design of the film is certainly well-done, but it strikes one as being too familiar, given director Burton's tendency to create films that exhibit this same intense color scheme. But despite the film's familiar visual style, the art department in its entirety is responsible for helping to create a beautiful and never tiring look.

But someone had better tell Tim Burton that he's going to have to start keeping his composer on a leash. Danny Elfman's stock in trade is weird yet vibrant musical scores, but in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Elfman has finally jumped the shark (if indeed it's possible to do such a thing in music). The score in and of itself is an interesting one (and should please Elfman devotees mightily), but the cues are all over the map and never seem to match the emotional requirement of the scene.

Elfman is far beyond creating some sort of noticeable musical cue when his name flashes on the screen during the beginning credits (see Sleepy Hollow for an instance where composer insanity can work to a film's benefit). It's possible that Elfman has outgrown the weary medium of feature films as his musical score has nothing to do with anything that's appearing on screen. It's like he composed an entire score without knowing what type of film his music was going to be used for.

Beyond the [usually] well accomplished technical details (everyone on the film seems to have had their head in the right place except for the composer), the large supporting cast adds an entertaining weight to the overall product with co-stars Noah Taylor and Helena Bonham Carter (as Charlie's parents) leading the effort with some of the most engaging supporting performances of the film. Also noteworthy is the aforementioned Christopher Lee (who, let's face it, could stand mute and still be an interesting sight) as Wonka's father and Deep Roy who certainly finds his kicks playing every single Oompa Loompa in the film (Roy was replicated digitally to represent the entire squadron of little men).

As a piece of storytelling, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory doesn't always hold water, but there are enough technical and creative elements to make this failing less of an issue. The film also sports a bevy of solid performances with Depp doing his level best to convince us that comedians really do deserve Academy Awards. This is a solid effort from director Tim Burton and marks a return to more comfortable territory for the innovative director (his previous and more mainstream efforts, Big Fish and Planet of the Apes were well made but not especially well-received generally). This dark retelling of Roald Dahl's book is an engaging film on most fronts and in light of so many impressive components, its beauty deserves a recommendation for a big-screen visit.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.


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