Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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(2005) ★★½

Sky Movies Family: Sunday 27 September, 7pm

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, the weird owner of a wonderful chocolate factory in a grim mill town. Children across the globe are thrilled by the reclusive Wonka’s announcement: five finders of golden tickets hidden inside Wonka candy bars will win a guided tour of the factory. With the exception of pure-hearted Charlie Bucket (wearing the pudding-basin haircut is Freddie Highmore, Depp’s young companion in Finding Neverland), the winning children are appalling specimens: greedy Veruca Salt, gluttonous Augustus Gloop, competitive Violet Beauregarde and aggressive Mike Teavee.

Inside Wonka’s emporium, caramel waterfalls flow into chocolate rivers. Candy-striped trees nestle alongside marshmallow bushes. The coco-bean crazy Oompa-Loompas tend this garden of calorific delights. Homer Simpson would swoon at the sights in this extravagant revamping of Roald Dahl’s truly scrumptious children’s fable, originally filmed in 1971 with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. The wild-eyed Wilder was an almost psychotic figure, scarily unpredictable and prone to crazed outbursts.

Under Big Eyes director Tim Burton’s guidance, Depp’s Willy Wonka is an altogether gentler soul, almost prissy by comparison. In heavy make-up, lip-gloss and Louise Brooks bangs, Depp plays Wonka like a mildly deranged, wholly distracted silent-screen vamp, staring wide-eyed and moving in odd Groucho Marx lurches. He seems more fruit than nut. “Michael Jackson never entered my brain,” Johnny Depp told Rolling Stone. “I was thinking more of Howard Hughes, or Brian Wilson when he installed a sandbox in his house.” Wonka’s underground elevator rides seem more suited to the realm of X-Men.

That’s the problem with the picture – it’s all too much of a good thing. The simple charm of Dahl’s tale is diminished by the sheer scale of Burton’s visual gimmickry (a fudge mountain the size of the Matterhorn, etc). Flashbacks to Wonka’s unhappy childhood (not mentioned in Dahl’s book) allow Hammer horror veteran Christopher Lee to appear as Willy’s baleful father Wilbur Wonka, a dentist scornful of all things confectionary. He burns Willy’s Halloween chocolate haul and trusses his son up in a dental corrective device which makes him look like Hannibal Lecter.

Even so, this is all surprisingly restrained given the Depp-Burton pedigree – Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow. James Fox’s bemused reserve is no substitute for Roy Kinnear’s northern bluster in the role of Veruca Salt’s wealthy dad. The candy-floss songs by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse have been replaced by Danny Elfman’s efforts, which are unmemorable. The squirrels are a nice touch, but it could have been a whole lot nuttier.

Certificate: PG

Duration: 115min

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Other Showings Time & Date
Sky Movies Family Saturday, 3 October at 12:45PM
Sky Movies Family Saturday, 3 October at 8:00PM