As A Tim Burton Event and even as a remake, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory feels a little TOO predictable and ‘robotic’ at times (Hollywood/ILM/Elfman etc. TOO well-oiled a machine now!) – the latter criticism ironic perhaps given the somewhat laboured ‘ahhh humanity’ scenes and dialogue scattered throughout. A sense of ‘going through the motions’ and ‘paying the bills’ pervaded much of the two hours. I don’t doubt Burton’s love and respect for Dahl’s works for one moment, but the question ‘why this, now?’ still intrigues. I probably would’ve enjoyed it more and it would’ve felt fresher if I hadn’t seen the original again on TV recently, but still…

The whole thing does feel irrevocably Burton’s World though – despite this being a re-adaptation of a text by a visionary with such a legendary style of his own. The parallels between Burton and Dahl in this respect are fun to explore and contrast in theory, but perhaps this ‘meeting of the minds’ didn’t quite live up to expectations purely because in the end the similarities seem too close. As well as the obvious shared affinity for childhood, both are fascinated by ‘the monster who just wants to be loved’. All well and cute, but could there not be something more interesting done with a ‘monster’ like Wonka beyond nudging them to the conclusion ‘families are great and should come first’? Even for a PG?

Of course Burton takes the risk of frustrating some fans every time he commits to a kids film. He confirms his position alongside Spielberg, Lucas and Jackson in terms of pushing the boundaries for how dark a PG can be. As it turns out, only one of the children’s fates feels truly disturbing even to an adult like myself (wonder if you can guess which one?!) – indeed it seemed to cause at least one toddler tears in the half-full cinema – I’ll never fathom why kids as young as 5 or so are brought along to ‘family’ films by the likes of Burton or Jackson though, given their penchant for the grotesque spectacle. Not that I believe in ‘protecting’ children from nightmare visions necessarily, but still the mind bogles…

The creepy images are matched in number by moral messages dished out by Depp (reliable as ever) as Wonka, Charlie and his family (save for the glorious but typecast Liz Smith as the senile granny) and director throughout – something that hadn’t seemed as apparent in Burton’s previous films, but then this is his most out-and-out kids flick yet and there’s a strong sense of an increased responsibility to teach lessons from him here, whilst cackling nerdily at the spoilt kids all the way. Again it’s not a case of disagreeing with these messages (esp. as most have not changed since the original film and indeed the book), just an indication of curiosity with regard to the way they are issued. Depp’s warped genius of a Wonka comes across just as scatter-brained and laissez-faire as Wilder’s all in all, though as talented and as game as he is, he lacks quite the same charisma and comic timing I feel.

It had some magical moments (Charlie’s Grandad plays a blinder – his general benevolence threatened by a child-like selfishness when it comes to the question of who should accompany Charlie to the factory, followed by ridiculous celebratory dance just perfectly poignant) but lacked that extra spark somehow – unless I’m just too jaded for so dated a tale (quite likely!). It’s odd to see a story like this retold today – I was too cynically bemused by the confusing ‘English people in Americaland’ aspect once again. I would’ve liked to see Depp’s Wonka become angry at Charlie like Wilder’s did – the all too real rage of a distressed adult at an innocent child more frightening a spectacle than many of the things conceived by either Burton or Dahl. The most interesting part in theory was the final 15 minutes where Burton takes the story beyond the original, though the outcome will not surprise anybody.

But Deep Roy is great fun and the all new Oompa-Loompa songs also stand up pretty well to the original ones. This is a fun soundtrack to compliment the original rather than baulk in it’s shadow or sneer at it from deceptive heights. I’m sure Burton intended the film itself to do the same, and by and large he succeeds once again. I just hope he goes and does something completely and utterly different next. And of course, make sure you eat SOME chocolate just before you see the film or you’ll come out and blow £200 in Thorntons.

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