Charlie And The Chocolate Factory movie review: There are people who will tell you, under the misty-eyed delusion of nostalgia, that Mel Stuart’s entertaining but heavily flawed Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is an indisputable epic. But where the 1971 Gene Wilder vehicle left a feeling of emptiness after a brief saccharine high, Tim Burton’s take of Roald Dahl’s fable of cavities and calamities has the same rich sweetness shot across with the acidic wit that’s kept children turning the pages and ruining their appetites for 4 decades.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory movie deliciously melds the director’s two favoured styles: Grimm Goth-lite and pop-art gaudiness. Burton hasn’t been so visually jubilant since he upped sticks from Gotham. Wonka’s amazing factory, full of vibrancy and mischief, serves like a twisted Taj Mahal over the anytime-anytown that’s home to little Charlie Bucket (Highmore), a boy who can but dream of a pot to piss in.
Burton establishes Charlie And The Chocolate Factory full movie an early mood of cosy poverty; warm comedy and familial snugness shining through the elegant wintry gloom. But when the doors to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory open, the senses are subject to a rapturous attack that doesn’t let up until the credits roll.
There’s so much imagination flying around — Dahl’s, Depp’s, Burton’s, Alex McDowell’s exquisite production design — that a pre-cinema Aspirin is advised to prevent migraines. Oompa-Loompas, the Mr. Whippy-headed factory short-asses, sing infanticidal ditties in styles varying from Busby Berkeley to The Darkness by way of Hair. A hot-pink dragon boat careens down a hellish, disco-lit tunnel. A precocious brat is trapped in a Kubrick homage. And as for Depp — well, chalk another one up for Mr. Mentalist.
The trust stacked up between Depp and Burton enables the former free rein to form a hilarious, yet sinister, yet likable man-child. Worries that the Michael Jacksonesque appearance denotes squirming undertones should be allayed.
This candymaker hates children, watching with horror as his factory is overrun, then with joy as, one by one, his junior tour party (an delightfully gruesome bunch with faces like Quentin Blake scribblings and hearts calcified by sugar and indulgence) meet their comeuppance, before spitting barbs at those who remain.
But a warm heart and a playful intelligence anchor the madness. It’s unusual to be moved by a children’s movie, but in casting Finding Neverland’s Highmore as his guide, Burton finds a soul for his Charlie And The Chocolate Factory film.
Never has a bottom lip been that emotive as when trembled by Highmore, and hardly has such sweetness in a child performance failed to bring about a desire to lock them in a cupboard until they learn their lessons.
John August’s script has taken the fantasy of the book and grafted it to a distinctly unsickly moral of family and hard work over imperiousness and entitlement. And he’s added some meat to the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory novel, too. Most importantly, Willy Wonka is given a great macabre backstory, with a dentally ruthless father (Christopher Lee) who has left him trapped in eternal childhood, whey-faced and fright-wigged from years locked up with no more than midgets for company. While there are striking omissions from the tale — the removal of Charlie’s mild rebellion making him possibly too nice — all are made with respect for the source and on focused course for an ending of August’s own creatation that wraps up this sweet treat with great satisfaction.
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