I saw three movies on the weekend: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Cold Mountain, all of which I would recommend to varying degrees. Over the course of the next three days I will review each of these.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an interesting film that many will say is a remake of the much loved film released in 1971. This 2005 version, however, is quite different. It places a much greater emphasis on Willy Wonka’s motivations than the earlier movie, which had a different name even: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
It’s funny that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is more about Willy Wonka than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It has the almost too strange touch of Tim Burton with some very odd psychological nuances that nothing to do with Roald Dahl’s amazingly original book which has the exact same name as the latest film.
Dahl was the screenwriter in 1971 but, of course, wasn’t in the latest effort. He passed away November 23, 1990, of leukemia at the age of 74. Roald Dahl is a favourite writer of mine for his incredible sense of child-like whimsy and his masterfully simple use of the English language. But I don’t want to give the impression that his writing is simplistic; Dahl often took years to write his books and if things didn’t go well he would stop and re-write the entire book (this happened with Matilda). His masterpiece, in my opinion, is James and the Giant Peach which would easily make my short list of books to be stranded on a desert island with… if I had a water proof trunk. And his television series, Tales of the Unexpected (1979-1980), is an absolute hoot if you can find it, especially Dahl’s commentary at the beginning of each episode.
Now I like both film versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they both have a quality that would make them enjoyable for viewing more than once even if they really do pale in comparison with the book. Johnny Depp (2005) and Gene Wilder (1971) play altogether different Willy Wonka’s. If I had to, I’d say that Mr. Wilder’s Wonka is closer to the character in the book whereas Johnny’s (I can be more familiar with him because I’m 10 days older) is warped and strange and perhaps a little more plausible for a hurt genius with only Oompa Loompas for company.
Burton’s use of Deep Roy as all the Oompa Loompas (even the female secretary Oompa Loompas) was nothing short of brilliant and, I would hazard a guess, would have been greatly enjoyed by Mr. Dahl. I’m not so sure about how he’d take Willy’s past history and the introduction of his dentist father (Christopher Lee). Somehow I doubt he would. On the other hand, the Oompa Loompa lyrics are much closer to Dahl’s original poetry from the book. Still it is SO strange! But Burton is a unique and wildly warped director whose work I find absolutely appealing. Would I buy the DVD? Sure I would… but I’d probably buy the book first (if I didn’t already have the [much worn and loved] paperback) and I’d probably buy the 1971 film second and this new version third.