Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Movie Review
It's so enthralling in spirit that an audible gasp of joyrose from a sneak preview audience Monday night when -- even though thisis a given point of the plot -- impoverished, good-hearted little CharlieBucket (the gifted Freddie Highmore) unwrapped his Willy Wonka chocolatebar and found one of five sparklingly golden tickets to tour the toweringtitular candy plant.
Inside the mysterious factory, Burton brings deliciousand Technicolor-bright life to Dahl's visions of chocolate rivers (I sensea theme park ride in our future), everlasting gobstoppers, magic glasselevators and Oompa Loompas, Wonka's staff of uncanny munchkins (all playedby a small, amusingly stoic actor named Deep Roy, who is made even smallerthrough CGI effects).
He also delights in dispatching Dahl's infamous quartetof other ticket winners -- spoiled brats with eerily plasticized faceswho soon fall victim to various candy-making contraptions amusingly befittingtheir particular disciplinary problems.
But the film gets much of its off-kilter energy from JohnnyDepp's creation of a daffy, benignly sinisterWilly Wonka who is prone to flashbacks of a Burtonesque childhood (a newconcoction in the excellent screenplay by John August) featuring a strict,anti-candy dentist for a father (Christopher Lee) and a face wrapped inhumorously horrifying orthodontia. "I'm sorry," Wonka says withchirpy, unsettled embarrassment after snapping out of one of these episodes,"I was having a flashback."
Decked out in a plum velvet evening coat, purple surgicalgloves and a top hat resting on a doll's-head pageboy trim, Depp (workingwith Burton for the delirious fifth time) takes the character in a morepsychotically childlike (and possibly Ritalin-addled) direction than GeneWilder did with his sly, subversively sharp-witted title character from1971's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
As a result (and despite the title) this film ends up beingfar more about weird, whacked-out Willy Wonka than sweet, altruistic Charlie.But 12-year-old Highmore (recommended to Burton by Depp after working withthe boy in "FindingNeverland") holds his own with such ingenuoussweetness that he commands the movie's point of view.
Even before we step inside Wonka's wonderland with Charlieand his grandfather (craggy, fragile, lovable David Kelly), Burton hasalready created an eccentric and enveloping world, full of resonant littletouches of atmosphere, in which Charlie's extended family (including momHelena Bonham Carter and dad Noah Taylor) occupies a slanty shanty in theshadow of Wonka's factory.
And while "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"has its imperfections (why does Burton always let composer Danny Elfmanrun roughshod over the soundtrack?), its spell isn't broken for even asecond until the closing credits roll.