Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a lot to live up to back in 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 8 735x400 - Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a lot to live up to back in 2005

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory movie, Tim Burton’s reimagining of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book, features all of Burton’s cinematic stalwarts as well as some inventive confectionery scenes. Facing fierce competition from the highly revered 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Burton’s take had a lot to live up to back in 2005.

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When candymaker genius Wonka, mostly known for his delectable sweets, decides to hold a competition for five children to visit his chocolate factory, Charlie, a boy from an inflatedly impoverished background, sets his heart on winning one of the precious golden tickets. Desperate after finding no such ticket hidden in the wrapper of his chocolate bar, his luck changed when he has the chance to buy another. In Burton’s retelling we are given Wonka’s back story, a history that never appeared in the book, explaining his transformation from outgoing confectionery king to distrustful agoraphobic.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory full movie is a delicious work of art – and that’s not just because of the gallons of liquid chocolate that flood the film. Burton-esque throughout, the sets ooze with cooky brilliance whilst Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore)’s ramshackle family home (inhabited by a host of wonderful grandparents, namely Liz Smith) is fitting. Adding in some of Dahl’s Great Glass Elevator tale, the picture comes full circle when Charlie is made an offer he can’t turn down… or can he?

Johnny Depp, a man renowned for his acting dexterity (few other actors could nail playing the Mad Hatter and Jack Sparrow in the same career), uses his resourceful nature to great effect as the captivating Wonka. Both wacky and reserved, Depp’s Wonka holds the movie together. Although the character himself is rather fragile and haunted by his troubled relationship with his father (here played masterfully by Christopher Lee), the children’s fascination with him (or lack thereof) helps carry Wonka’s mysterious magic.

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Helena Bonham Carter, clearly, co-stars whilst the four obnoxious kids who share Charlie’s experiences are played so well that you’re perfectly pleased when each one faces their demise. Highmore’s Charlie is likeable but Deep Roy’s role, impressively appearing as every single Oompa-Loompa in the film, steals most of his limelight.

Bringing life into Dahl’s greatly imaginative work, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory 2005 movie maintains much of its novel’s aspect. The Danny Elfman-voiced Oompa-Loompa ditties can be found in the original story whilst most of the visual treats seem to spring straight from Dahl’s page.

Any movie that uses 927,403 litres of (albeit fake) chocolate was always going to be good in our novels and, knowing that some of the set was real sweet, it’s hard not to love the fantastical ride provided by Burton and co.

I humbly admit that I am THE viewer for Tim Burton’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory movie: Never read the novel (even though I like other Roald Dahl books such as James and the Giant Peach and The BFG) and never succeeded in sitting through the entire 1971 Gene Wilder version (oh, as a parent, I tried, God knows I tried—too garishly tedious, too galumphingly long; cheesy before “cheesy” was cool).

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Furthermore, I figured Burton would be an ideal Dahl director. In the past, he’s been unsentimental in his approach to both fantasy and children (from Edward Scissorhands to the very slightly underrated Big Fish). In Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Burton proved he knows how to build the enchanting colorful world that Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory needs, and in his original Batman, he presented the grim dankness that characterizes little Charlie Bucket’s rickety, sagging house. And when I saw the first raft of publicity shots of Burton’s partner-in-eccentricity, Johnny Depp, as a Willy with chalky skin, a lipsticky grin, a squat top hat, and hair covering his ears (those last two items left over from Depp’s marvelous Dead Man, perhaps?), I sensed a goofy greatness.

Turns out, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory full movie is half wacky-great, and half just a wack. Burton is, as always, a brilliant creator of atmosphere: When you see the listing hovel inhabited by the Bucket family, you can almost hear the groan of the collapsing ceiling and feel the greasy slickness of the beds’ dirty sheets.

When Charlie unwraps a Wonka chocolate bar, Burton makes the outer paper wrapper crackle and its tin-foil lining crinkle palpably; when anyone bites into the sweet food, you can feel the collapse of the dusky cocoa confection between your own teeth. And while you and the kiddies surrender to this Candyland board game come to life, you’ll also chuckle at the zippy little homages to everything from Busby Berkeley musicals to Psycho.

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As the star who’s appeared in the center of almost every shot he’s in, Depp is a constantly unexpected Willy Wonka. I peeked at some advance stories that suggested the actor is doing a wise satire on Michael Jackson—the pale skin; the wispy voice; the leading of children via the Neverland-like atmosphere of the Day-Glo candy factory; the primal fear of an abusive daddy (in this case, Brit horror-film legend Christopher Lee). But that just doesn’t track; Depp is more original in his creation here than he was as a brazenly swashbuckling Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Unlike the King of Pop, Depp’s loopy lord of lollipops is fully an adult, a crafty autodidact who’s caught in a paradox: He recoils from the slightest touch of the children who most appreciate his sugary creations. Depp speaks nothing similar to Jackson; he invents a new kind of hipster dippiness, dripping sarcasm while chattering breathlessly through the open mouth of a rictus smile, telling the children that they’re “kind of starting to bum me out” unless they “keep on trucking ” with his long-striding tour of the chocolate factory.

If I’ve stinted on synopsis, it’s because I don’t know anyone besides me who isn’t familiar with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story, so I’ll just move on to the chief flaw: a rubbery narrative pace, which goes slack whenever Burton’s longtime orchestrator Danny Elfman halts the proceedings to have the happy slave-workers the Oompa-Loompas singsong semi-clever pastiches of the Beach Boys or the Beatles or Queen. (The yammering of much of this music reminded me why I never liked Elfman’s pre-movie career: leader of the fussy L.A. pop-punk band Oingo Boingo.)

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I also wanted more of Charlie, played by Freddie Highmore with the same winning pluck that made last year’s Finding Neverlandbearable—he gets lost in much of the spectacle. But overall, I admire Burton and Depp’s success at turning children’s nightmares (the Dahl-derived critique of kids as creatures who eat too much and bloat or explode) inward, getting at something lacking in Wonka’s humanity.

A damaged child grown into a man who maintains elaborate control of his surroundings, this Willy is less Michael Jackson–creepy than a chipper capitalist, for whom profits equal comfort, which equals creative freedom. Not that dissimilar, really, from the way Burton and Depp have managed to arrange their creative lives to work among the corporate Oompa-Loompas of Hollywood.

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