I only saw “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for the first time recently and, while I thought it was kooky good fun and Gene Wilder was awesome as always, I found it rather inconsequential. This new adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the infamous chocolatier, is pretty much the same deal, minus the benefit of getting there first and already being a cult favorite for generations of kids.
You know the drill: Willy Wonka owns the biggest candy-making facilities in the world, yet no one had been seen going in or coming out for years. Then one morning, it is announced that five Golden Tickets haven been hidden in Wonka chocolate bars around the world and those lucky enough to find them will get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the mysterious chocolate factory.
To me, the best part of the movie was actually the set-up, in which we meet the various children who find the Golden Tickets: fat German boy Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), spoiled daddy’s girl Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), overachieving judo champion Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb), videogame freak Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry) and, last but surely not least, Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), who is as generous and kind as he is poor. The movie does a great job of making the Bucket family endearing, with their crooked little house, the four grandparents sleeping in a single bed, the father (Noah Taylor) who works in a toothpaste factory and the mother (Helena Bonham Carter) always struggling to feed the lot of them with little more than cabbage and hot water at her disposal.
Once everyone goes into the Chocolate Factory, they remain entertaining, but they’re stuck going through with an organized tour, which isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, even if it involves rivers of chocolate (“No other factory in the world mixes chocolate by waterfall.”), evil squirrels and the ape men and monolith from 2001 (!). Burton gets to indulge in all his fantasies, with surreal sets full of stripes and twirls, eccentric costumes, music and Oompa Loompa songs by an even more eclectic Danny Elfman than usual and a completely unhinged Depp, but what’s the point?
“Candy doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s candy.”
Oh, right. Still, does that warrant not only a book and a movie but yet another movie retelling of this very thin story? Burton’s version, from a screenplay by John August, puts more emphasis on the message (creativity is great, but not so much that one should give up family over it, etc.) by giving Wonka a backstory and a father (towering Christopher Lee) who’s a dentist, but it’s not enough to wholly justify this remake. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a pretty good kids flick, but Edward Scissorhands remains Burton’s most magical fairy tale.