Film review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


Willy Wonka

I’ll no doubt be pilloried for this, but the original 1971 film version of Roald Dahl’s book, starring Gene Wilder, did very little for me as a child. I remember that every time it came on TV I’d start watching it, but end up disappointed by the end—even then it seemed a little cheap, like a poor man’s Wizard of Oz.

Of course the book, and the film, are beloved by millions, most of whom will probably love this ‘re-imagining’ (or whatever you call them these days) by Tim Burton. The reviews have been great. But I hate to say it just felt like a tricked up rework that will rapidly date, and personally I’d like to see Burton turn his talents to something a little more original.

There are some nice bits of course; Charlie’s crooked little family house is charming, and the opening moments with his family are quite emotional. Depp is a weirder Wonka than Wilder (say that three times fast), even if Michael Jackson does keep springing involuntarily to mind. The kids are well cast, especially Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket. Deep Roy, endlessly digitally doubled, brings more gravitas than you could think possible to the singing and dancing Oompa-Loompas.

But let’s face it, this is an effects-driven family fun-fest, and is fine as such. I just feel like I’ve seen it all before (the glass elevator scenes, for example, so similar to Slartibartfast’s cherry-picker whizzing about in the recent The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). I came out feeling unsatisfied and I’d forgotten all about it in ten minutes. I guess you had to have loved the original.

Two Oompa-Loompas out of five.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Guy Jeffrey
    Sep 08, 2005 @ 15:03:57

    Can’t disagree with your more Pete. I took my kids (13 & 9) to see it last night. They both loved it as did I. This is a great version. Its much closer to the original Roald Dahl story. I thought the Oompa-Loompa songs were fantastic, they sung the actual words of the book, and the Heavy Metal one was great!. The five kids were cast really well and the updating of Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregarde’s characters was appropriately done. It was less British and more American, I give you that, but I guess that’s understandable given the fact that this was an American film. Anyhow, my kids game it 4.5 Oompa-Loompas out of 5, and I guess I agree with them.

  2. UniversalHead
    Sep 08, 2005 @ 15:17:43

    Yeah, I guess this is one of those times when I just don’t get the zeitgeist!

  3. Annie
    Sep 12, 2005 @ 19:11:57

    I think you should have gone to see Wallace and Gromit. That’s what I’m volunteering to take my kids to. Roald Dahl is fun to read aloud and I’d rather do that. (You’d think he would have been able to spell his own name though hey?)

  4. Annie
    Sep 12, 2005 @ 19:14:15

    Oh and by the way I never understood why everyone liked that old movie with Gene Wilder either. Yuk it’s horrible.

  5. UniversalHead
    Sep 13, 2005 @ 11:24:37

    Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit is definitely a must-see, yep. Even David and Margaret agree …