"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" Film Review

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) - IMDb

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" Film Review

Rating: 3/5

By: Nathaniel Simpson

    There is no doubt Tim Burton is an odd filmmaker. The movies he makes are very dark, peculiar, strange, and borderline scary at times. You know what else fits all of those categories? Roald Dahl's classic novel, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Gene Wilder gave a wonderful performance as the titular protagonist in Mel Stuart's 1971 classic, and it was sort of this huge childhood fantasy transcribed onto the screen. Burton's, which stars fantastic actor Johnny Depp as the lead chocolatier here, is the complete opposite. This movie is harsh, dark, too weird, and just straight-up very different from the movie Wilder and Stuart made. Even though it may not reach the level of the original, there is something about this wickedly dark film that works on a few levels, but also doesn't work at many times. 

    The movie follows the same set-up and plot as the original, but you can just tell the change between the two. Whether it is from the color gradient, the dialogue, the cinematography, the utilization of Willy Wonka's character, or just the straight-up bizarreness of Burton's vision, it is hard to imagine this movie has any correlation with the one from 1971. While Stuart wanted to showcase a fantasy world where kids can frolic through the edible grass, even though there is dark themes in the background, Burton just wanted to put that dark energy front and center. 

    When watching this movie, you can tell there is something sort of sinister and frightening about the chocolate factory. The Oompa Loompas, which are all played by actor Deep Roy, are frightening and in a way, makes me very uncomfortable to watch. When looking at the factory, it doesn't capture the same light and fantasy that the 1971 one had. This factory feels like a machine of sorts, one that is there to suck out the energy and happiness from those who inhabit it. Consider when Wonka and his guests Charlie (Freddie Highmore), Mike (Jordan Fry), Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), and Mr. Teevee (Adam Godley) travel down to the TV room. It looks like a terrifying, post-apocalyptic video game rather than a wonderful chocolate factory.

    Depp gives such a peculiar take on this classic character. There's a part of me that absolutely loves everything he did here, but there's another part that simply dislikes his whole portrayal. While Wonka is praised for being such a wonderful person who wants to make the world happy with his chocolate, that is not what we have here. I understand that he has been scorned by those who sold his recipes to his competitors, but so was Wilder's character, and he had such a more happy demeanor the entire movie. But,  I must say there is something so appealing about this Wonka. I can't say exactly what he is, but there were times I found myself liking his performance much more than Wilder's. 

    However, when it comes to the performances done by the younger actresses and actors, it is much better here than the original. Consisting of Highmore, Fry, AnnaSophia Robb (Violet), Julia Winter (Veruca Salt), and Phillip Wiegratz (Augustus Gloop), they all perfectly embody the characters written by Dahl many years ago. The original portrayals seem like watered-down versions of these performances here, with these young performers giving their all and really embodying these roles. Charlie has such a small role here, but he does shine when he is on the screen for the most part. 

    Here's the thing though - this movie lacks a lot of emotion for the first half. Consider when Charlie hunts for the Golden Ticket. It seems like Highmore simply doesn't care about finding the ticket, and when he does eventually find it, there is really no joy or jubilation at all. This is different from the original, where Stuart is able to show how Charlie is feeling and his emotions of dismay about not being able to find it. 

    But, with the emotion Burton lacks in the first half, he makes up for in the conclusion of this film. We start to see the emotional damage that Wonka's father (played by Christopher Lee) does on him, and how he goes about resolving it and forming a relationship with his family. While the film concluded after the glass elevator scene in the 1971 adaptation, I am really happy this film decided to pursue a more daring and emotional finale, which works very well here. 

    While there are numerous things about this movie that just seem off or too dark, there is something about the charm that Burton oozes into this project that simply just works. I can't even explain how I feel about this movie because I enjoy it even though there are numerous aspects I simply don't like. This is just a perfect example of how Burton is able to entertain the audiences to the best of his ability. 

    This is easily going to be the weirdest, most peculiar adaptation of the classic novel from Roald Dahl. I wouldn't say it is better than Wilder's version, but it does work as a part of Burton's dark and odd filmography. There are numerous aspects I really like, and some parts I absolutely despise. It's not great, but it is not bad either. Honestly, for this story, which I'm not too big of a fan of anyways, I think Burton does a decent job of what he had to deliver here.