Nishan Fuard

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

31st August 2005
Movie Poster reviewer: Nishan Fuard
directed by: Tim Burton
written by: Roald Dahl (book) John August (screenplay)
starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter
genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
released: 29th July 2005

It’s almost a shame that it should take a new film for Roald Dahl to once more capture the attention of children. Long before JK Rowling’s adolescent wizard and the true-to-life tales of Jacqueline Wilson, Dahl’s weird and twisted tales were staples of childhood reading. Amongst the many favourites Charlie and Chocolate Factory is arguably the most popular of the late author’s books. With its crazy confectionary creations and the mischievous Willy Wonka it has all the ingredients for a rather scrumptious film.

However, Hollywood’s first bite at the story, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, was sickly sweet. Aside from Gene Wilder and the comedic value of the orange-faced Oompa Loompas (what was that all about?) it’s really only a film fondly remembered by those who only saw it as children.

Thankfully, this new adaptation is much more palatable. With director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp onboard (a combination sweeter than a Whipplescrumptious Fudgemallow Delight) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is something kids will tuck into with gusto.

The story of the five golden tickets is surely now familiar to almost everyone but there’s still a thrill when you see young Charlie Bucket (played by Freddy Highmore) discover that magical invitation to Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Charlie is that even when it strays from the original story (the film is remarkably faithful although the use of “candy” grates a little) it retains the spirit of Dahl’s work – there’s a touch of devilishness within the sentimentality and the lessons to be learned. As you might expect, Wonka himself is the source of much of this mischief and delight.

Having already pinned down Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp ostensibly shapes Wonka’s personality to that of another music icon: Michael Jackson. It’s an uneasy performance from Depp one that suggests that Wonka, perhaps correctly, always had an ulterior motive in mind (the film encourages this idea too). Whilst not as entertaining as Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp’s Wonka does have that air of mystery about him.

One area in which Burton has definitely not strayed from book is the use of songs – they are only sung by the Oompa Loompas. They are arguably the most cringing moments of the film but the director must have had some fun playing with music to set to Dahl’s moralising lyrics.

Also noteworthy is the use of physical sets, which almost look strange after the recent computer-generated excess of Star Wars.

Charlie is an enjoyable romp and though it might be beyond very young children I think it’s generally welcome family entertainment. The less sweet-toothed might not be so easily enticed, but you'll miss out on a treat.