Sunday, August 07, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl wrote countless of books, many of which I grew up reading in secondary school. There are many of his works adapted for the screen as well (The Witches, Matilda), but none so far given the Tim Burton treatment.

The opening credits/scene has Burton's fingerprints all over - the imaginative sequence, the gothic soundtrack (done by long time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman), mammoth weird looking architecture and snow filled landscapes.

In the beginning, we are brought to the small world of Charlie Buckett, whose family find difficulty in making ends meet. As Wonka announces the 5 Golden Tickets (for a special visit to his factory) hidden in his chocolate bars, we are introduced to the backgrounds of the other children's family and stereotypical character, like the German glutton, the English brat, the American go-getter, and the Television (Wonka accused of mumbling) boy. And no doubt, the audience will definitely root for the time when Charlie actually gets his ticket and join the rest.

Willy Wonka is the number one Chocolateer, but he certainly has issues relating to people, and I guess nobody can blame him after having his "Secret Recipe" hijacked by corporate espionage. We are told of Wonka's background in a series of flashbacks throughout the plot, and one of my favourites is when he journeyed and stumbled upon the Oopma Loompas.

As the narrative gets predictable, it actually turned it into its advantage, as the audience expects to see some innovative room in its spectacular imaginative splendour, the set pieces in which the children get themselves into, and the performance of the little Oompa Loompa people, whose hilarious spontaneous song and dance routine will definitely leave you laughing out loud.

Towards the end, after the side-splitting zaniness of the factory excursion, the theme of Family is highlighted, and nicely wraps up the movie, both for Wonka and Charlie.

Johnny Depp is class, but really though, I thought his Willy Wonka actually adapted Michael Jackson's look and nuances. He managed to highlight Wonka's freakiness and child like nature to a T, and Depp has shown he has done no wrong with diverse roles in Tim Burton's visionary movies. Also remarkable is his recommendation of Freddie Highmore into the role of Charlie. If you'd remember, they worked together before in Finding Neverland, and their on screen chemistry was brought into this film as well. Many touching moments featuring Highmore will tug at your heartstrings, and I suppose besides Dakota Fanning, he's one of my favourite child actors of today.

I can't rave enough of the sets created for this film, with its wonderful use of colours. And besides scoring the film's soundtrack, Danny Elfman also provided the unique sounding voice of the Oompa Loompas, and purist of the book will be glad that the lyrics for most of their performances were from Dahl himself.

Although adapted from a children's book, this is one movie I'd recommend to adults as well. I guess Roald Dahl would have been proud of this effort! Bring out the Wonka bars!

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