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This isn't a terrible piece by any means, but I don't agree with the majority that this is a classic that should be revered above all others. Perhaps this is mostly because I often prefer faithful adaptations, and I don't think this film was made at the right time or by the right people.
Let's start with Wonka. I think he's definitely aiming for the book, but at the same time, I find Depp's to feel much more consistent and in-tone. While I don't like the 2005 Wonka's lack of warmth, neither do I like this one's bizarre collision of saccharine whimsy and nightmarish psychosis. They seemed to be trying a bit too hard to make Wonka's presence unsettling and questionable while retaining a sense of magic, and, seeing the result, I honestly can't fault the newer one for focusing just on the creepiness behind his secondary plan for the children but doing it subtly. In the book, I never thought Wonka was so intensely creepy in some of his more off-putting moments, I just got the idea that he was a weirdo that nobody was able to understand. Depp's Wonka is certainly creepy and awkward, but he doesn't seem as malicious in his strangest moments.
The sets don't quite work for me. It's obvious that they were held back by budget and special effects, and while there are indeed some interesting work-arounds and sets (the Nut Room's changes and the half room), some of them just don't need to be there or don't live up to their description. The Chocolate Room is a cramped soundstage in a warehouse with diluted paint running through it, not a beautiful edible meadow with luscious chocolate.
The real problems come with the plot, which they didn't seem to hold up as high. The key problems with both films come with the Not His Sled of Charlie's victory, and here, testing him secretly due to his poverty sort of works, but Charlie is just a goodhearted bystander, the one who was always supposed to be the winner. Wonka's plan for him is much more elaborate and it misses the point of the story, which, for better or worse, says that kids are the products of their guardians and only their behavior can change the child.
The music isn't right here. Sure, a couple of the songs are okay, but they wasted the effort on them when they could have tried, like the 2005 film, to adapt the actual Dahl-penned Oompa-Loompa songs. These are trite and all the same here.
It's not terrible, but I'm with Dahl on this one.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was, as I'm sure it was to a lot of people, one of those earliest books I can remember really taking a shine to. It was funny and also kinda scary and creepy, but with a good moral center. So when I found out there was a movie years later, I got totally pumped, as you do. And... I didn't really like it all that much. Don't know why. I was just a dumb kid, I guess. when I saw Tim Burton's take on it about a decade later, I totally dug it. Ah, the ignorance of youth. Michael Nesmith knew what the fuck he was talking about when he said "It's amazing how time / can so softly change your ways / And make you look at things / that can't be seen." That's goddamn right, Papa Nez.
Now, I wouldn't trade a hundred generic, overblown Burton quirkfests for one wild-eyed Gene Wilder, the one and only Willy Wonka to me. Mr. Wilder's Wonka is truly a mesmerizing, unpredictable performance. with his strange thought patterns, borderline sociopathy and general aura of mystique, he comes off as almost a bit alien in nature. And not a traumatic backstory in sight. You can't understate the efficacy of a good mystery, sometimes. In certain ways, he's an even more fascinating character than his book source counterpart. And that's pretty much as high praise as can be given to an adaptation.
I was more than a little surprised to find it was a product of the '70s. It's got such a tight grip of that timeless sense of wonder of true golden age Hollywood family classics. Though mostly light and fun in tone, there's a few off-colour jokes thrown in for the adults, and of course, that infamous Psychedelic Tunnel Freakout that catches EVERYONE who watches it off-guard the first time around. Oh, who am I kidding, it's a harrowing experience every goddamn time. And I fucking love it.
The kid actors do a great job of acting obnoxious while reminding us constantly that their personality flaws come from the sins of the fathers (and mothers). Charlie is also a hell of a lot more of an actual kid—flawed and sometimes selfish—than the selfless, wooden android kid in Burton's film.
With catchy, witty songs that stay with you and one of those truly classic, nostalgic main themes—sweet as fucking candy—this is a film to be savoured time and again. Pure joy, pure entertainment... pure imagination.
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