Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

It seems of late that every month Hollywood either releases or plans to release a remake of a classic film. This summer has spawned no less than 5 remakes of classic films or televisions shows and with box office receipts in decline, it would seem that the public is craving for something fresh.

Thankfully the Tim Burton remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not only a winner, but injects a much needed jolt of camp, charm, and wit into a late summer season that desperately needed it.

The film stars Johnny Depp as the mysterious candy maker Willie Wonka. Wonka has become a reclusive for two decades in order to protect his secret recipes from corporate spies and thieves.

As the film opens, a young boy named Charlie Bucket, (Freddie Highmore), returns home to his family shack, which he shares with his parents and four grandparents. As told via narration, that despite the poverty of his family, Charlie is a very lucky boy. Over their meager dinner of cabbage soup, Charlie’s grandfather (David Kelly) regales the family with tales of Willie Wonka and his exploits which he saw first hand while working in the factory decades earlier.

When Wonka resumed candy shipments after a hiatus the world was delighted, but many wondered who was making the candy as aside from shipping trucks, nobody was ever seen coming or going from the factory.

Such secrecy only added to the legend of Wonka as amazing candy creations continued to arrive in shops to the delight of customer’s world wide.

When it is announced that five golden tickets have been hidden inside candy bars world wide, and that the winners will be given a full day tour of the factory by Wonka himself, frenzy erupts across the globe as Wonka Bars are snatched up by a rabid public. Charlie dreams of getting one of the precious tickets, but his family’s meager income limits him to one bar a year on his birthday. Undaunted Charlie counts the days until his coming birthday, undaunted by the discovery of tickets around the globe.

When his efforts to get a ticket are daunted, and the fifth ticket is reported to be found, Charlie consoles himself by finding money in the street and purchases a Wonka Bar from the corner store. In the blink of an eye Charlie finds himself holding the last ticket when he learns that the last one reported found was a hoax.

Soon Charlie and his Grandfather are touring the magical factory complete with rivers of chocolate and edible candy forests in the company of the quirky Wonka and the fellow contest winners. What follows next is not going to be much of a surprise for those who have seen the 1971 version starring Gene Wilder or those who have read the novel by Roald Dahl, what is a surprise is how fresh and spirited this new version is. I was utterly charmed by the story and the effective pacing of the film.

Burton is a master of mixing visuals and fantasy and this time he not only excels, but he adds an effective touch of humanity to the fantasy which keeps the film from being lost in a see of color and effects.

Depp is brilliant as the eccentric Wonka as his mirth and camp, is underscored by equal amounts of fear and mistrust. The film is essentially a morality tale, but it never losses its focus or the charm by becoming preachy or drawn out. In a role that could easily have been mishandled, Depp soars and shows that he is one of the greatest actors of our generation.

Parents should note that there are a few moments in the film that may be a bit intense for the youngest of viewers, but that being said, the film is a true delight full of magic and fantasy that will delight young and old.

5 stars out of 5