POINTLESS and TIRESOME
TIM BURTON'S WONKA REMAKE IS A BAD NUT
 

It's not like Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory is some untouchable classic film that should never have been remade. When Tim Burton was first connected with the project, many folks were intrigued by the darker take on the tale that was to be the expected product. And with Marilyn Manson as an early rumored choice to play the elusive Mr. Wonka, it sounded even more crazy. Personally, I wasn't all that keen on making a new Wonka film, but you had to trust that Johnny Depp could pull it off. The Burton/Depp combo is almost as foolproof as Scorsese/DeNiro. From Edward Scissorhands, to Ed Wood, they've made remarkable movies together, and with the exception of the Planet of the Apes, Burton has rarely had a mis-step. Ultimately, the remake curse strikes again, however, as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is merely pointless.

It's not an awful movie, it's just kind of there. It's a bit slicker and the effects at times are better than the original, but there's an emptiness to the whole thing that just feels phony.

Depp is an inspired choice to play Wonka, but his creepy plastic appearance, girly hair, and "ewww that's gross" mannerisms wear thing awful quickly. I have a very hard time believing that Burton and Depp weren't trying to make fun of Michael Jackson with this movie. From his disdain for adult figures, to his germophobic ways, to his misfit man-child personality, this Wonka is as much Michael Jackson as Charles Foster Kane was William Randolph Hearst.

There were rumors that Burton was trying to make this film much closer to Roald Dahl's original book, but this characterization of the mad candy genius couldn't have been further from the source material. Dahl's Wonka is a red bearded crazy old man with a bit of a mean streak. Gene Wilder completely nailed it with his original and superior performance. Given little more than funny grimaces, and painfully bad outbursts like, "That's Gross!", "Keep On Truckin!", and "Let's Boogie", Depp really doesn't have much to work with here. If you were hoping for an "Okay" film with a brilliant Captain Jack Sparrow performance to carry you through it, it just isn't there.

The movie starts off with another hacked out score from the Elfman 3000 Soundtrack Machine. If you liked his work in Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands, you'll be thrilled to hear them blended together in this movie. Even one of the Elfman composed Oompa Loompa songs seems to be lifted straight from his Oingo Boingo song, "Gray Matter."

The 5 lucky children, for the most part, are at least better actors than their predecessors. The new Augustus Gloop is more vile and disgusting than the original, and the newly created tension/competition between Veruca Salt (played by first time actress Julia Winter) and Violet Beauregard (Annasophia Robb from Because of Winn-Dixie) is excellent. Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), the gun loving TV addict from the book has been upgraded to a videogame junkie that reminds me of a young Alex Winter. And Freddie Highmore as Charlie is a better actor than Peter Ostrum by leaps and bounds. Even David Kelly as Grandpa Joe makes you never look back at Jack Albertson's nice take on the same character in the 1971 original.

But despite the nice cast, it just seems to go through the motions from there. 80% of the film is composed of the same stuff in the first film, just re-shot with a bigger budget, and sometimes with inferior results. The famous boat scene was a nightmarish scary classic bit of cinema in the first version. With Wilder reading his creepy poetry and insane images like chicken heads getting cut off complete with psychedelic lighting, it set the no-holds barred tone for the rest of the film. In the Burton version, it's just a silly roller-coaster thrill ride that merely serves as a transition point to get them to a new room.

There was no artistic reason to make this movie. This movie is no closer to the book than the first one was. In fact, Burton tacks on an ending and a Wonka origin story that were far from the source material as well.

I felt tired and antsy watching the whole thing. As they travel via The Glass Elevator and look at some random explosions, Mike Teavee comments with frustration about how pointless everything is. You can't help but agree with him.

There's a few fun things worth watching out for if you do plan to see it. When Charlie's dad is shown working in the toothpaste factory, you'll see the brand name of the paste is Smilex, which is the deadly chemical the Joker used in his Batman film. Also you can't help but laugh when Wonka appears holding a giant pair of scissors in his hand.

OK...you like making movies about Chocolate, we get it!

Burton can certainly take existing subject matter like Mars Attacks! and Pee Wee's Big Adventure and make wonderful movies, but his creative genius is far too wonderful to waste on remaking classic films.

I wish I stayed home and watched the original on DVD again instead.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com


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