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Movie Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Review for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The IMAX Experience'
(no rating)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Genres: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Running Time: 115 min
MPAA rating: PG (Adult Language, Adult Situations)
Release Date: 2005-07-15
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By "Chicago Tribune "

By Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
4 stars
In a summer of movie discontent, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" stands out like a gourmet truffle in a box of stale caramels and curdled creams.
Tim Burton's scrumptious version of writer Roald Dahl's 1964 children's classic is almost everything you'd want it to be: a peach of a story delightfully imagined by Dahl and lushly realized by Burton. It's full of witty or awesome scenes, flights of fancy, and characters either lovably sweet or outrageously, humorously rotten.
Heading that gallery is Dahl's cracked genius of a candymaker, Willy Wonka himself, the character memorably played by Gene Wilder in the 1971 film version of Dahl's book ("Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory") and here played by Johnny Depp. Depp's Wonka can seem sweet and poisonous himself, sometimes in a single line reading, as he guides the tale's Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore of "Finding Neverland") through his incredible sweets factory - an outwardly magical, inwardly perverse and punishing world where bad children can fall into chocolate rivers or chew themselves blue.
Burton can be a great fantasist, and Dahl's story has a double edge tailor-made for Burton's gifts, mixing sugar with vitriol in just the right proportions. Within the story's classic wish-fulfillment parameters, Charlie fills a classic fairy-tale profile: a good-hearted poor boy living a hardscrabble life, yearning for something just out of reach, and finding it in the factory.
I like that about Charlie. He has spent most of his life sipping bland cabbage soup in a hovel with his beaten-down father (Noah Taylor), plucky mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and four enfeebled grandparents - an elderly quartet who reside 'round the clock in an overcrowded bed, led by Grandpa Joe (David Kelly of "Waking Ned Devine").
In Dahl's story, followed here with unusual faithfulness and devoted detail, Charlie the would-be chocolate lover and epicure must content himself with mere whiffs as he passes Wonka's factory, a palatial candymaking fortress barred by huge iron gates and run by the ultra-paranoid Wonka himself (Depp), Uncle Joe's ex-boss.
Years ago, Wonka banished workers out of fear of recipe thieves, but he has kept on mysteriously mass-producing his toothsome treats. Once a year, Charlie is rewarded for impeccable behavior with a Christmas gift of a Wonka bar, a treat that this year may be special, because the reclusive Wonka is running a bizarre contest in which five lucky children will, upon finding a golden certificate under some Wonka candy wrapper, be granted admission, with the grown-up of their choice, to the Wonka factory. There, mysteries will be revealed and candy prizes munificently dispensed.
Dahl knows how to engage, tease and chill young audiences. He makes Charlie's rivals, the first four recipients of the golden tickets, a truly odious (but well-acted) little bunch, including gluttonous little piggy-boy Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz); spoiled, greedy rich girl Veruca Salt (Julia Winter); gum-chewing egomaniac Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb) and couch potato and TV junkie Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry).
All four unworthy little brats will be squired around Wonka's candy factory, where the chocolatier and his diminutive tribe of workers, the Oompa-Loompas (all played by computerized actor Deep Roy), will show just what a candy man with vast resources and a perverse sense of justice can do.
If many children's stories - including some of the 1971 "Willy Wonka" - seem overly sugary and condescending, Dahl's book has that darker, more dangerous feel that laces the Grimm and Andersen fairy tales or the early Disney features. Before he wrote children's books, in fact, Dahl was a specialist in witty, urbane terror tales ("Lamb to the Slaughter," "Man From the South"). Much of his work teeters on the edge of sadism or horror.
The 1971 "Wonka" had a droll script by Dahl himself and that comic, fey-star performance by Wilder, in his hysterical prime. But it also had a cheesy, 1960s Saturday-afternoon kiddie show look that matched the sometimes saccharine Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley songs (which included Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Candy Man"). Here, everything looks magical, the hovel and streets as well as the factory.
Burton and producers Brad Grey and Richard D. Zanuck have also cast the movie with real savvy. Christopher Lee gives a sinister, even tragic look to Dr. Wonka, Willy's demanding father. And Burton's flair for slaphappy theatricality is on the money here - whether with those revolting children, or with James Fox's stuffy discomfort as Veruca's dad, Kelly's old-man glee as Grandpa Joe, and Bonham Carter's lower-depths beauty as Mrs. Bucket.
No one tops Depp. He plays Wonka like a daffy man-child, brilliant and petulant, always in control but only because he owns everything in sight. Depp's line readings, as in "Pirates of the Caribbean," are disarmingly twisted and unexpected; he bends phrases, just as Wonka springs traps and double meanings.
As in his first "Batman," Burton fashions a wonderful pop mythology on screen. But the film works so well because all its makers (including executive producer Felicity Dahl, the writer's daughter) are so faithful to Dahl's vision and mood. It's an exhilarating and fanciful movie that never drowns in money or technology. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," in fact, gives you everything you should want of it, except the actual taste of chocolate. You can bring that yourself.
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
Directed by Tim Burton; written by John August, based on the book by Roald Dahl; photographed by Philippe Rousselot; edited by Chris Lebenzon; production designed by Alex McDowell; music by Danny Elfman; produced by Brad Grey and Richard D. Zanuck. A Warner Bros. release; opens Friday, July 15. Running time: 1:56. MPAA rating: PG (quirky situations, action and mild language).
Willy Wonka - Johnny Depp
Charlie Bucket - Freddie Highmore
Grandpa Joe - David Kelly
Mother Bucket - Helena Bonham Carter
Father Bucket - Noah Taylor
Mr. Salt - James Fox
Dr. Wonka - Christopher Lee

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(no rating) Jun 15, 2007 - Chicago Tribune
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