Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Why is everyone so down on Johnny Depp here? Granted, he's not Gene Wilder, but then he's not trying to be. What he's done here is think logically about what a guy who'd been cooped up in a giant building for twenty years with nobody to talk to but a bunch of singing dwarves might conceivably act like, and then he ran with it. Of course Willy Wonka is going to be an eccentric, paranoid social maladroit -- who wouldn't be after all that time? He's not the malevolent huckster of the 1971 film (or the book, if memory serves), but he's something possibly even more dangerous: He's a candy-colored clown who's lost his moral bearings. Roald Dahl's story was always a finger-wagging horror flick in kidlit disguise; Depp's just being more honest about it than the rest of us. Tim Burton's here to help too -- he takes the lysergic set design of the first film and tweaks it just enough to suit his Expressionistic tastes, then blends in his own brand of off-the-wall misfit humor. (Seriously, the humor in this flick is cracked. I mean, the hall of flags? The puppet burn unit? The cannibalism joke? I mean, WOW.) It's a shame, then, that Burton and screenwriter John August have to derail their marvelous film with a crap subplot about Wonka's candy-hating father. Between this and Big Fish, Burton's starting to out-dad Spielberg. Please leave the daddy issues to your therapist and definitely don't let them track their muddy feet all over the piss-poor ending to your otherwise-fantastic film, okay? Okay.

Grade: B


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