2/29/12: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Why does everything in this film seem completely pointless? Tim Burton doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why he’s candy.

Cindy & I watched this again yesterday. It was the serendipitous decision of The Randomizer, an Excel function I use to randomly select DVD’s in our collection that we’ve previously viewed (as opposed to new ones not yet screened) weekly, as well as to randomly select live musical performances (referred to as “shows”) from our collection on CD. The Randomizer is ridiculously mystical: It regularly chooses shows that we’ve discussed; seemingly has a favorite DVD at any given moment – between ’08 & ’09, Poseidon Adventure came up well over a dozen times from a Previously Screened Section upwards of 150 at the time – Moonstruck has come up 3 times in the last 6 months, including twice in February when Previously Screened was at 167 & 168 respectively; and it’s obsessed w/ the Grateful Dead’s Europe 72 Tour right now, to name a few.

In this case, Lori Ouellette recently started a Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory children’s book/Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie comparative Facebook Thread. My contention has always been and will always be that comparing books to films is apples to orange groves. Orange groves not oranges because the scope of the production of a film is so much greater than that of a novel. However, to the extent that I got involved in the debate, my preference was to the 1971 Willy Wonka version. That decision is suspect as time can make a picture prettier (in this case) or more faded depending upon the situation & perceiver. Realizing this, I rescind the decision and remain open-minded about my preference. In either event, Gone with the Wind, they are not!

That said, Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a pleasant, stress-free way to spend a mindless, snowy Connecticut Leap Day. It’s fun and funny, simultaneously bright & dreary, cute & corny. The performances are all top-notch – especially Willy as performed by Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket. Freddie was 12 at the time of its filming and fresh out of his brilliant role as Peter Davies in Finding Neverland. He just turned 20 and good roles for him, sadly, dried up after Charlie. Amongst the other superb performances in the film are Christopher Plummer as Dr. Wonka, David Kelly as Grandpa Joe, Deep Roy as the Oompa Loompas, the 10-year-old AnnaSophia Robb (who starred in last year’s biopic Soul Surfer) as Violet “The Blueberry” Beauregarde, and Julia Winter in her only film role as Veruca Salt. The costuming in the film garnered it an Oscar nomination.

We all know the story of Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket: An eccentric, brilliant, hermit chocolatier whose factory has been closed to the public for years, hides 5 Golden Tickets in random Wonka Bars. Each of the 5 ticket discoverers & a guest will be given a once in a  lifetime tour of the factory; and, in addition, one of them will be granted a bonus surprise prize!! Hijinx and mayhem ensue on the tour for Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and the flawed 4 other winners & their chaperones.


There’s one major blemish that jumps out of the screen during the movie: Tim Burton! Mr. Burton, like Frank Zappa and Quentin Tarantino, doesn’t take his art seriously and, as a result, neither do I. It’s more important to him that he make a signature film full of signature imagery like Dr. Seuss than it is to make a great movie. But I harken back to Stanley Kubrick and Jerry Garcia: One can recognize the work of either almost immediately w/o any of the Burton/Tarantino/Zappa campiness. Their signatures are just as unique. And their work far more timeless. But I’d argue that Stanley’s films are unparalleled and important!

However, even though on first blush, it seems that Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is completely pointless, he does have a point: As The Randomizer has reminded me recently in its fixation on Moonstruck, “Nothing can replace your family. I see that now.”!!!


4 thoughts on “2/29/12: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  1. I made the blog! I am honored. As you well know, I was won over to the “apples vs. orange groves” theory of book/film discussion. I agree with your assessment of Tim Burton not taking his art seriously. But I really was won over by his adaptation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Initially, I hated the film (other than the very good performances by Depp, Hightower, Lee and others) and I remember saying “if I ever have a kid, he’s going to see the 1971 version! This one will scare the hell out of him.” Well, now I have a kid and he’s a Roald Dahl fanatic. He loved the book and when he asked to take Burton’s version out of the library, I said yes. Viewing it again, changed my perspective completely and I have a new appreciation for Burton’s version. It’s not perfect and there are things I still fondly remember from the 1971 version. While the stuff about Willie Wonka’s father issues were Burton additions to the original story, I think it worked.

  2. I was still very much attached to the 1971 version the 1st time I saw Burton’s version. I remember being really intrigued by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Willie Wonka but scratching my head about most of it. Remember—I hadn’t read Dahl’s book at that point. As much as we agree that books are apples and films are orange groves, I do believe that reading the book gave me a new perspective too.

    Thanks for the compliment about Andy!!

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