Saturday, July 16, 2005

'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' ...

I love the book. I own it.

I love the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder. I own it, too.

I was chargrined when I first learned of another version of the film, until I heard that Tim Burton was at the helm. If any director has any business making another "Chocolate Factory" movie, it's Burton. And as Burton and Johnny Depp are practically joined at the hip, and their joint efforts are always worthwhile, I signed on.

Yesterday, after a crazy week of work, I treated myself to a 4 p.m. show. There were lots of kids there, as there should have been. One little guy, who ended up sitting next to me, even tried to worm his way into my popcorn. (I had no problem with the idea of sharing, but I didn't let him have any. It's never too soon to teach a child that it's probably ill-advised to eat a stranger's food.)

It's hard to watch this film. And not because Depp's Willy Wonka reminds me of Michael Jackson. Honestly, that thought never crosssed my mind until a few weeks ago when I started seeing the stories pop up everywhere in the media. (Thanks for ruining that for me, guys.) If you're a fan of Gene Wilder's version, it's hard to watch this movie you spend all your time comparing what you're seeing on the screen to what you're remembering in your head of the first movie and of the book. I consciously tried to watch the film as a new experience, but I don't know that I was ever able to disengage.

To be sure, it's a Tim Burton film. It's beautiful and whimsical and dark and odd. Deep Roy, the lone Oompa Loompa, did a great job in all his roles. (He played all 165 Oompa Loompa roles in the movie.) The new Augustus, Veruca, Violet, and Mike are all well-cast. Freddie Highmore as Charlie knocked me out. I wouldn't be surprised if Depp taps this kid to be in every one of his movies in the future. The adults were mostly suitable, though it was a bit unnerving to watch Violet's mom flirt with Wonka. As he would say in the film: "Ew."

Critics are raving, but I left the theater not sure how to feel. I was never able to watch this movie as a singular experience. I brought too much past love and knowledge to it, I guess. Worthwhile viewing, surely. Maybe a bit too dark for very young viewers, like my popcorn-loving toddler seatmate.

The chocolate river rapids were pretty cool, though.


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