Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a faithful adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic brought to the screen here by Tim Burton. This is a huge glitzy production packed with computer generated graphics, incredible sets and the now expected Burton sheen of larger than life reality. This is fast-paced stuff, all the essential elements are present and yet it seems to be lacking something.
The basic premise is that the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, who owns the largest, most mysterious chocolate factory in the world, has put five golden tickets in random chocolate bars. Any child who finds one will get to see the inside of Wonka´s factory and may win the ultimate special prize, the chance to become Wonka´s heir.
The kids who win are classic Dahl characters, the unbearably spoilt brats of the world, each displaying the most foul character traits imaginable, except of course for the downtrodden and poor Charlie. Rather than weeding them out actively Wonka allows the kids to remove themselves from the competition through their own greedy and grasping actions.
The original movie made in the 1970´s starred Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, a role now taken over by Johnny Depp and in both versions it is this character that makes the film work. However Burton chose to add some background and through Wonka's flashbacks we learn about his fractious relationship with his draconian dentist father. This makes it easier to relate to Wonka but does detract from his endearing air of mystery and mischief.
The film is visually stunning and includes scenes on an epic scale which would have been impossible to do without the aid of computers. Burton has a knack for bringing fairy tale worlds to life and his art direction is typically excellent as the film bombards you with colour and imagination.
The cast is very good, Johnny Depp does a great Willy Wonka, emotionally fragile, fun-loving and a bit dark at times. Charlie is played by Freddie Highmore, who looks the part more than anything else, a down to earth and sensitive kid who understands the point of pointless fun. His foul competitors are equally well -realised and the endlessly talented Christopher Lee pops up as Wonka's father.
Despite the fast pace and beautiful look achieved the movie still seems to drag in places. The most familiar scenes from the original movie are all here and although they may be grander they are not as memorable. The additional stuff added in, with the exception of Wonka´s father, doesn´t work as well and the ending is expanded to focus on Wonka rather than Charlie.
The script is not fantastically funny; if you´ve seen the trailer then you've seen all the best lines. Fans of the original may also be disappointed with the Oompa Loompas who are all played by one man and then multiplied using CG, the costumes are changed and the songs they sing are really poor. All the changes seem to detract from Dahl's message and even the visual effects become overbearing in places. The cash-in nature of the release and licensing also seems at odds with the subject matter as you can leave the theatre and buy the exact same Wonka bars featured in the movie at your local shop only Wonka didn't make these, the soulless multinational Nestle did.
This is a well made movie and it is stunning to behold but the substance has been lost. By giving a motivation for Wonka's eccentric behaviour the character loses some of his magical appeal and the temptation to focus the film on him obviously proved irresistible (by chris at testsforge). Kids will probably enjoy this colourful romp but something of the charm and the point of the original book is missing.