Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Charlie Bucket (Freddie
Highmore), a nice boy from a nice but impoverished family, lives next door
to a chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp), who is, to
understate, eccentric. Willy had fired all his employees, including
Charlie’s grandfather, Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), closed the factory to
outsiders, but continued to make chocolate.
One day Willy decides to open
the factory to outsiders for one day, so he puts a Golden Ticket inside five
chocolate bars and includes them in the bars going around the world. As
luck would have it, Charlie gets the fifth, and last, ticket.
What follows is Charlie’s tour
of the incredible factory in glorious primary colors, the quality of which
has rarely been seen since the days of three-strip Technicolor which ended
in the ‘50s. Willy’s factory is full of things like chocolate rivers,
sugary, edible plants, squirrels who inspect the nuts, and such. Said
Kelly, “The sets are wonderful – hand-painted, handmade, the kind you
rarely see anymore. Going to work every day was endlessly jaw-dropping and
Willy’s factory workers are
some kind of creatures he found in a far-off land and imported to work for
him. Called the Oompa-Loompas, they are 30 inches tall, and all are played
by Deep Roy, who is 60 inches tall. There are dozens of them. Duplicate,
but individual, Oompa-Loompas were created using motion and facial capture
technology. Roy went through months of choreography, for each character.
While it might look computer generated, it’s not. They are all Roy,
although 15 puppets were also created and used.
Even more amazing, 40 squirrels
were trained to work with the nuts. What is seen on the screen is a
combination of live squirrels with CGI squirrels. The shots of squirrels
on stools were computer generated. When the squirrels are on the floor,
they are actual animals. In addition, there were 12 animatronic models
created and used
Whatever couldn’t be done
naturally was accomplished by an integration of advanced motion capture
technology and CGI by Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis and Production
Designer Alex McDowell. They are responsible for the amazing world inside
the factory, the glass elevator, and the other effects.
The four other holders of
winning tickets are all hateful little kids. Willy has said that at the
end of the day he will pick one of the five for a special reward. By the
end, all the hateful kids had had something bad happen to them,
eliminating them from the competition, so Charlie is the only one left.
Director Tim Burton has pulled
out all the stops in making this a special treat. This is truly one movie
that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children, thanks, mainly, to
exceptional performances by 12-year-old Highmore and Johnny Depp. Depp is
like Russell Crowe in that he always seems to be different from what he
was previously. You don’t go to Depp and Crowe movies to see someone
you’ve seen before, like you do with Cary Grant and Clark Gable and Paul
Newman and Robert Redford and Tom Cruise. Each time, it seems, Crowe and
Depp are someone completely different. Here Depp is an ingenuous (or is he
disingenuous?) creature who is the product of his growing up with a
father, a dentist, Dr. Wonka (Christopher Lee) who, although he loved him,
never showed the love. Dr. Wonka raised him quite strictly, denying him
the sugar he wanted to eat because the doc wanted to preserve Willy’s
exceptional teeth. Willy is a damaged character. Coming in contact with a
truly good, undamaged Charlie changes Willy’s life.
As with all fables, there are
some violent scenes here that could frighten children. But children have
been frightened by fables since the Brothers Grimm perfected the genre,
and it was upgraded by Disney with things like “Bambi” (1942) and some of
his other full length cartoons. Although Willy seems innocent, his
troubled past clouds his life. His exposure to Charlie helps him to come
to grips with it.
The best thing about this movie
is the moral. Charlie is a good boy who does the right thing. And it rubs
off on Willy, too. This is like a movie from the good old days of
Hollywood where the good guy wins, the bad guys lose, and there’s an
I have to say that I squirmed
and looked at my watch often. However, because I think that was more my
mood than the movie, I have not allowed it to influence my rating of the
film. It’s an uplifting ride with many humorous moments.
July 12, 2005