[Picture of projector]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

A weird and wonderful sugar high

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

October 12, 2005 -- “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a big improvement over the original adaptation of the popular children's book of the same name, written by Roald Dahl (Dahl's wife, Felicity was a producer of this film). The original is the beloved “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” released back in 1971. I haven't read the book, but other reviews indicate the new film is closer to the source material than the older film was. At any rate, it is a richer, more complex film with more fully-developed characters. The visuals are beautiful, thanks to wonderful work by production designer Alex McDowell (“The Terminal”), the set designer team and the art direction department. The cinematography, by Philippe Rousselot (“Constantine”) is excellent.

The story has Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore of “Finding Neverland”) hoping to become one of only five children in the world to get to see the inside of Willy Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory where the best candy in the world is made. His grandfather, Joe (David Kelly of “Waking Ned Devine”) used to work in the factory and also wants to see it again. The Buckets live in the shadow of the great factory in a small, rundown house, just barely getting by. While Charlie is poor in terms of money, he has a rich family life, surrounded by caring, loving and wise people. He watches as four other children get the coveted golden tickets that will get them inside the chocolate factory. Finally, he and Joe get their chance to go inside the gates of the factory to see what Willy Wonka has been hiding from the rest of the world for years.

The inside of the factory is a wondrous, magical place with a chocolate waterfall feeding into a chocolate river. The colorful trees, grass and shrubs are all edible. One scene has a spun-sugar boat riding the river into underground chambers, rowed by the mysterious Oompa Loompas who work in the factory like elves at the North Pole. The other children on the tour are spoiled, self-centered brats who get their just desserts. Willy Wonka himself (played by Johnny Depp of “Pirates of the Carribean”) is a strange man indeed. He is a wondrous invetor, but seems to have no social skills. He has a hard time dealing with children, except for Charlie, who is gracious and good-hearted. Willy Wonka's pale skin looks soft and seamless, like softened leather. He is ever cheerful and imperturbable.

During this journey through the factory, we begin to learn about Willy Wonka and why the mere mention of the words parenthood and family trouble him so. The story takes some additional twists and turns not found in the first film. What we get is a more human film. Willy Wonka becomes more of a person as the film goes along. The film's delicious conclusion has nothing at all to do with candy, money or any material thing. It has to do with a very human connection between people and families. Old wounds are healed.

The acting is excellent by everyone, especially by Depp, David Kelly and Freddie Highmore. The bratty kids and their obnoxious parents are all effective. Special mention should be made of Deep Roy (“Big Fish”) who plays all of the many Oompa Loompa characters in the film. He must have spent more time in front of the camera than all the other actors in the film put together. He dances, does numerous factory jobs, works in technical jobs and even has a scene as a psychiatrist. Some Oompa Loompas appearing in the film, of course, are digital copies of Deep Roy and some are animatronic constructs. Christopher Lee (of the “Lord of the Rings” films) also has a key role in the film as Wonka's dentist father. Danny Elfman not only composed all of the songs and music in the film, he sang all the songs too. The Oompa Loompas were just lip-synching.

Part of the reason the film looks so great is that most of the sets of the inside of the factory are real sets, not just digital effects. It helps make the place look more real. The special effects are integrated into the film seamlessly. There is a wonderful scene, for instance, showing a large number of squirrels who are removing the shells from nuts. In addition to real trained squirrels, both digital and animatronic squirrels are used in the scene. It looks incredibly real, yet you know it can't be real. The film bears the unmistakable stamp of director Tim Burton. This, along with “Edward Scissorhands” are among Burton's best-ever films. This is a great-looking film with a heart-warming story. I've read some descriptions of this film that call it “dark.” Nonesense. This film is bright and light-hearted. About the only thing dark in it is the chocolate. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)