Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family Movie Night: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Director: Tim Burton
Original Release: 2005
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Image via Wikipedia

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is on a very short list of my favorite books, all-time.  I read it not long ago as part of my 12 Books in 12 Months project: see post here.  As I noted in that post, I prefer this version to the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder.  In my opinion, this later movie is far more faithful to the original story.  The Dahl estate had much broader artistic control this time. 

Even beyond the strong adaptation, Burton's movie is a great piece of work in its own right.  Major selling points for me:
  • I love Johnny Depp's interpretation of Willy Wonka - so much more than merely zany.  Depp brings a detachment that lends a darker edge to the proceedings.  The back story, entirely new, is vintage Burton.
  • The casting of Deep Roy as all of the Oompa-Loompas is a stroke of genius.
  • The squirrels in the nut room are very satisfying.  I can appreciate how the same scene would have been difficult to accomplish with 1971 technology but the golden egg in the Wilder version is a wholly inadequate substitute.
  • All of the children are well-cast - no small feat in the film industry.  All but Charlie are delightfully wretched.  Pressed to pick a favorite, I'd go with AnnaSophia Robb as Violet Bearegarde.  I'm half-convinced that Dahl wrote the book just for the sake of the "Violet, you're turning violet" line.
Multi-generational considerations:
  • We watched with My Mother during our Thanksgiving visit to Washington, DC.   I was amazed to learn that she'd never even read the book before, let alone seen either of the film adaptations.  Published in 1964, the book missed her own childhood.  By the time it came into my life and my sister's, we were old enough to read it by ourselves.  She has read some of Dahl's works for adults, though.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. The 1971 adaptation of 'Chocolate Factory' remains among the favorite films of my childhood. I have often avoided remakes of those stories which I cherish because I imagine that they can only be ruined by extravagant displays of CG prowess in lieu of the more subtle (and impeccable) executions of a line

    ('Spitting's a dirty habit!'
    'I know another one.')

    Depp is an enormously capable actor and, now you have me wondering, could he possibly have interpreted the role of the great and powerful Wonka (honestly, Oz pales in comparison for me) as beautifully as Wilder? More so, even?? You seem to be saying this is the case ...

    Incidentally, the original opening quote to MM was,

    'We are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of dreams.'

    (Though I cannot claim any particular preference for snozberries.)

    1. I do prefer the Burton/Depp interpretation. That said, I've grown to appreciate the'71 movie on its own terms. My ultimate loyalty, though, is to the original book and the earlier film's adaptive inconsistencies were a major disappointment for me the first time I watched it. If anything, the '05 film with its more faithful reckoning was a liberation. I now feel no need to expect more from the '71 film than what it is.

      Did you know the boy who played Charlie in the original is now a rural veterinarian?

      Wilder's great. I have no problem with that casting choice. In fact, I don't think the Burton film would have worked if Depp had simply tried to recreate Wilder's Wonka. He had to bring something different and he did - most gloriously.

    2. 'That said, I've grown to appreciate the'71 movie on its own terms.'

      I like this.

      As for the boy who played Charlie, I did see him in an interview and think I do remember that. He was wearing a tartain-plaid flannel shirt (an article of clothing I could live in all winter) and had such a subdued, easy vibe. Girl liked.

      Finally RE: Depp, I can well believe it. The man is not one iota derivative!

    3. Did you watch the same childhood stars countdown show I did? He was in the top 10 of one I saw and one of very few who turned out just fine. Interestingly, I'm pretty sure Johnny Depp was on that list, too. River Phoenix - a shameful omission from the list - was at Depp's club the night he overdosed. Oh, the tangled webs!

    4. I didn't catch that. Who else was on the list? (Don't tell me Dana Plato.) No, now I remember, it was a set of interviews of the entire 1971 cast on a special edition disc of some sort or another.

      Funny(ish) story: whenever my daughter gets tempted to throw a fit, I often pull Veruca's 'I want it now!' out of my hat. At first, it made her more indignant, then it made her laugh. Now, I'm thinking I need to come up with something new because the novelty has started to wear thin. :)

    5. Here's the link: Dana Plato is #91. Charlie (Peter Ostrum) is #78. And I was wrong, Depp's not on it. He should be!

    6. Three cheers for Scott Schwartz and Peter Billingsley!

    7. A Christmas Story!

      For me, the fact that River Phoenix is missing cuts into the list's credibility, especially since all of his "Stand By Me" co-stars are included and he was clearly the standout in that movie. Hey, Kiefer's not there either! Hey! No Cusacks!

    8. Okay, well see, Squidman, I think the stars with a bit more TigerBeat heft were not included. This is my theory ...

      BY. THE. WAY. I'd like to officially change my very first response to the very first comment you left on one of my blogs. I thought of this comeback, like, hours after I responded to the comment and whenever I think of it, something inside goes, 'DAH!'

      Ready for my revised response?

      Okay, here it is:

      I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

    9. You know how I feel about Lloyd...

      TigerBeat heft? You're going to have to help me out with that one. My sister had the Seventeen subscription instead.

    10. John Taylor of Duran Duran had massive TigerBeat heft. Rob Stone, not so much.

      FTR, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Sassy girl.

    11. Oh, you mean the pretty boys? If I take your meaning, I think I agree. The VH1 list was put together by a group of, let's be honest, straight men who had no intention of including the pop icons who made them feel inferior in their youth.

    12. Pretty boys! Yes. That is what I meant. And good point.

    13. So, the Tumble 4 Ya gang, for instance, would probably come up with a very different list.

    14. Well, who knows? I'm sure somebody tumbled for Gary Coleman ...

    15. My Sister had a bit of a thing for Todd Bridges, actually - before he turned out to be a creep, that is. Her bigger TV crush, though, was Tony Dow (aka Wally Cleaver). The list is very generation-specific. I mean, if we're talking all time, to pretend that anyone other than Judy Garland is #1 is just ridiculous.

    16. A couple of our aunts call my sister Judy Garland. They say she looks just like her. You'll see her in the Christmas Quiz video. See if you can pick her out.

      How old is your sister, B?

  2. You know, Dahl actually wrote the screenplay for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That will always be a childhood favorite for me. I watched this Depp version and, um, he kind of weirded me out a little with the wig and teeth. LOL. :)) But that story is every kid's fantasy.

    1. Well... the Dahl screenplay story was a little more complicated than that. Initially, yes, he was the screenwriter. But when he failed to meet deadlines, David Seltzer was brought in to finish the job. Seltzer's the one who made the drastic alterations and as a result, Dahl disowned the film and refused to sell rights to the sequel.

    2. Oh, wow. Never heard that part of it, you're right. I was always so impressed that a novelist tackled a screenplay, but apparently he didn't quite make it work. Too bad he had to disown something so close to him. That had to hurt.

    3. I'm sure it did, no doubt souring him on future projects. It seems his books get filmed all the time, now that he's passed on. The estate's doing well, I imagine.

  3. I thought this version a little odd as well. (Of course, all of Dahl's books are odd.) I grew up with the Gene Wilder version so that will always be my favorite.

    1. Oh, I will grant you odd! Combine the creative forces of Dahl, Burton and Depp and odd is inevitable.