Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

25 July 2005
  Hat's Off for Wonka
This Charlie's a Dahl

I took those members of Aardfamily as were around the burrow this evening to see Tim Burton's new vision of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Aardwife, with yours truly, clearly remembers 1971's Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory from our younger years. The younger Aarddaughter had seen bits of it on TV while the Grandaard had no comparison.

To get it out of the way, I have only one real complaint: The film could have been longer. It breezes along so quickly that it seems shorter than its listed running time (a rare treat among the bloated temples to their directors' self-importance that too often fill the screen).

Johnny Depp again shows his chameleon-like skills, inhabiting the skin of Wonka as perhaps no other current actor could have done. Although some circumstances, characteristics, and appearances make a surface connection with a certain discredited pop star, Depp's Wonka is, in some ways, an "anti-Michael Jackson." Rather than refusing to grow up, he finds himself old before his time, unable to comprehend a family where love truly conquers all.

As in Roald Dahl's book, the film uses the good lad Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) as the title character. However, the film treats Charlie more as a catalyst who reactivates the latent familial feelings and eventually brings growth and a certain reconciliation to Willie's stunted emotional connections. In my recollection, Dahl treated Charlie somewhat similarly, although with a tad more character development.

The overall tone of the film, as with the book, is dark — the sweetness one expects from a factory filled with candies never materializes. Here, the movie is true to Dahl and Dahl to himself. He specializes not only in rewarding virtue but in punishing vice. In this area, we're amply rewarded with the retribution meted out upon the four ghastly children and their parents who accompany Charlie and Grandpa Joe (wonderfully underplayed by David Kelly).

I must tip my hat also to the film's "eye candy." From the Bucket manse to the Wonka factory, design is beautifully imagined and faultlessly rendered. The large-scale effects, including the elevator and the underground chocolate river, ring true.

And special mention has to be made of Deep Roy, who plays every single one of the 165 Oompa-Loompas who sing, speak, dance, gather, row, or otherwise work for Willie Wonka, and of the effects wizards who made each one an individual being.

Finally, in yet another collaboration with Tim Burton, Danny Elfman provides music that's always just right for each scene — sometimes front-and-center, sometimes way in the background, but never more or less than what's needed.

Overall, those who prefer their moral tales from the Brothers Grimm instead of Veggie Tales, will be well-rewarded for their time in the theater. I'll give it 8 stars only because I wish it had been longer.

"Everything here is eatable. I'm eatable, but that, my children, is called cannibalism and it is frowned upon in most societies." - Willie Wonka

Truly it was "eatable," and I devoured it with gusto.
 
Comments:
The Becks agree!
 
I've always been pretty creeped out about the first film, but having read your post, I think I'll give the new one a try.

Blessings.
 
I wasn't going to see it, but after reading the review I'm eager to do so.

Thanks for the insight.
 
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