Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton’s reimagining of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book, features all of Burton’s cinematic stalwarts as well as some inventive confectionery scenes. Facing fierce competition from the highly revered 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Burton’s take had a lot to live up to back in 2005.
When chocolate genius Wonka, famous the world over for his delectable sweets, decides to hold a competition for five children to visit his factory, Charlie, a boy from an inflatedly impoverished background, sets his heart on winning one of the illusive golden tickets. Crushed after finding no such ticket hidden in the wrapper of his yearly chocolate bar, his luck is changed when he the opportunity arises for him to buy another. In Burton’s retelling we are given Wonka’s back story, a history that never appeared in the book, explaining his transformation from outgoing confectionery king to distrustful agoraphobic.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a delicious work of art – and that’s not just because of the gallons of liquid chocolate that flood the film. Burton-esque throughout, the sets ooze with cooky brilliance whilst Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore)’s ramshackle family home (inhabited by a host of wonderful grandparents, namely Liz Smith) is fitting. Squeezing in some of Dahl’s Great Glass Elevator story, the film comes full circle when Charlie is made an offer he can’t refuse… or can he?
Johnny Depp, a man renowned for his acting dexterity (few other actors could manage to pull off playing the Mad Hatter and Jack Sparrow in the same career), uses his chameleonic nature to great effect as the absorbing Wonka. Both quirky and reserved, Depp’s Wonka holds the film together. Although the character himself is rather fragile and haunted by his troubled relationship with his father (here played masterfully by Christopher Lee), the children’s fascination with him (or lack thereof) helps carry Wonka’s mysterious magic.
Helena Bonham Carter, rather obviously, co-stars whilst the four obnoxious children who share Charlie’s experiences are played so well that you’re suitably pleased when each one faces their comic demise. Highmore’s Charlie is likeable but Deep Roy’s role, impressively appearing as every single Oompa-Loompa in the film, steals most of his limelight.
Breathing life into Dahl’s hugely imaginative work, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory maintains much of its source material. The Danny Elfman-voiced Oompa-Loompa ditties can be found in the original story whilst most of the visual treats seem to spring straight from Dahl’s page.
Any film that utilises 927,403 litres of (albeit fake) chocolate was always going to be good in our books and, knowing that some of the set was real candy, it’s not hard to enjoy the fantastical ride provided by Burton and co.
Best performance: Depp as Wonka.
Best song: The squirrel / Verucca one.
Best bit: Wonka’s reaction to his opening show.
Best line: Charlie: ‘… he also has a funny haircut’.
Wonka: ‘I do not!’
Although in hindsight Depp was an obvious choice for the role, the list of actors considered for the part of Willy Wonka is sizeable. Names included Steve Martin, Christopher Walken, Nicholas Cage, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Brad Pitt, Dwayne Johnson and Bill Murray!