Movie remakes are very common these days and the director always
takes a chance offending fans of the original, especially one that is
well-known and much beloved.
took a risk, not uncommon given his past works, and succeeds
wonderfully. He has crafted a delight that won't offend aficionados
of the 1971 "Willy Wonka" version, should please fans of the
children's book and captivates a new generation just discovering this
The story is familiar -- eccentric and mysterious candy maker
Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) places golden tickets in five bars of
chocolate and sets off a worldwide frenzy for the lucky winners to
tour his factory.
Four of the children are characteristically unlikable; the obvious
results of bad parenting, with the exception being poor but honest
Charlie (Freddie Highmore). Each child gets the fate he or she
deserves and Wonka's weak attempts to save them are subtly amusing.
Elements of the movie are like chocolate itself -- some are dark
and some are sweet. From the film's opening, Danny Elfman's musical
score is mysterious and moody but later takes on a lighter tone. He's
worked with director Burton before and knows how to create music that
enhances the story without being a distraction. The musical fables
the Oompa Loompas sing about the deserved mishaps that befall the
nasty kids showcase a range of musical styles, paying marvelous
tributes to everything from the Beatles to Busby Berkeley. Elfman
himself sings the vocals and does a great job.
The art direction is similarly styled. The city surrounding the
Wonka factory is depressing, dreary and snowy, but the heart of the
factory is bright and playful. The colors inside are brilliant and
vivid and the atmosphere certainly makes the audience want to sample
the edible goodies, but with more restraint than Augustus Gloop.
Don't be surprised if you suddenly feel an urge to visit the
theater's candy counter.
Depp's portrayal is spot-on, ranging from whimsy to mania,
portraying an industry genius with definite childlike qualities.
He switches his off-balance behavior from charming to disarming
with ease and keeps the audience and the other characters guessing
about his true intentions.
When Charlie says, "I wouldn't give up my family for anything,"
Wonka doesn't understand this sentiment.
There are a few flashbacks from his childhood with deeper
psychological undertones that explain Wonka's motivations and add an
interesting depth to his character.
The well-written script works on many levels and has dialogue for
children and adults.
Many of the double entendres will entertain parents who were
possibly dragged to the film by their kids. Even the simple cliche of
Veruca Salt as a "bad nut" succeeds with Depp's nuanced delivery.
Highmore is well cast as Charlie, making him easy to root for. The
other actors also give good performances, particularly Missi Pyle as
Violet Beauregard's mother.
She gives the right amount of sauciness to a transparent former
cheerleader whose unrealized dreams have produced a competitive
monster of a daughter.
Just like chocolate, you must resist temptation; in this case, to
compare this version to its predecessor. Judge it on its own and you
should find this concoction a delicious treat.
* PHILLIP HAIN is a Glendale resident who enjoys eating and
cooking with chocolate.