Saturday, March 15, 2014

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

When I was a kid, third grade I think, our teacher read the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl to us in class. Back then chocolate was like crack, and there were a string of books written with chocolate in the plot (literally). I loved that book, although I never read it myself, I can remember drifting away to the sound of the teacher's voice as I dreamed of all things chocolate. Then, as was the standard in elementary schools, when the teacher finished the book, we got to see the movie, albeit with a different title - Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - starring Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum.

I've never been a fan of musicals, well, except maybe for Rock of Ages. The songs are too kitschy, and the dance routines are ridiculous. I mean, who breaks into a random song at a moments notice? It's fine for theater, that's why you go to Broadway plays, right? Well, that's why most people go to Broadway plays. I guess I should confess that The Sound of Music, was always one of my favorite movies; Liesl reminded me so much of my favorite aunt; and when I was really little, I really loved Mary Poppins. But as I grew older, I really hated musical adaptation films. Even the cool hip ones, like Sweeny Todd. And I still haven't seen the latest version of Les Miserables (or any of them for that matter).
But Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was different. I loved it from beginning to end. It became one of my favorite childhood movies. Gene Wilder was fantastic. The Oompa Loompas were equal parts of creepy and funny. The rest of the actors were lukewarm, thus none of them has done anything of substance since. Peter Ostrum was on Gilmore Girls once and I think Friends once as well...maybe, though his IMDb filmography doesn't reflect the Friends appearance. And I mean brief appearance. His scene was so short, the commercials were longer.


I'm gonna blow it from the beginning; the original was better. I love Tim Burton (artist link) (Click here for IMDb page).. I think he's a great director and a phenomenal artist, and like many great artists, there are themes that run through his body of work, which in most cases work very well, but sometimes, they just end up making everything look like Beetlejuice. Tim Burton's artwork is very strong, like I said, and even if you don't know anything about him, you could learn enough in a few minutes about his style to define his other works.

From scattered bits of memories of my childhood, I can surmise that the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is more like the book of the same title than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Freddie Highmore
I really don't like Johnny Depp. I did years ago in 21 Jump Street, and a few of his first movies, but then he became ubiquitous. I get that he and Tim Burton are close, but do you have to cast him in every one of your movies? Actually, he wasn't in Big Fish, or 9, and I'm sure there were others but this kind of default position makes me think of all the bullshit politics that go on in Hollywood, like Aaron Spelling casting his ugly duckling daughter in 90210. And Dustin Diamond, where the hell did he come from? My bet is that he was the relative to a producer or director or whatever and got the part because of nepotism. 

But there are some films that just shouldn't be remade, especially by directors that have such a defined style. This goes for adaptations of novels as well. I mean, I wouldn't want to see Tim Burton direct an episode of Star Wars. The Jedi would all be clad in Goth attire and you'd end up liking the villains more. However there were a few cool things.

After watching it a couple of times, I caught an air of Art Deco. Art Deco is one of my most favorite artistic movements of all time. It began after World War I in Europe, and flourished internationally in the 1930s and 1940s, encompassing architecture; fashion; design; etc. It's also one of the most copied styles, with thousands of artists paying tribute to its timeless sensation. It's difficult to pinpoint one aspect to describe it, but I would say it's famous for it's linear qualities and its organic shapes.

The chocolate factory utilized these elements in its rounded facades and telescoping stories. Also the shape and arrangement of the bars in the gate caught my eye, and the pattern the trucks made in the snow as they exited was reminiscent of an Art Deco period floral pattern. The inside of the factory was all Tim Burton with his twisting writhing candy trees and characteristic use of organic shapes.

Oompa Loompas
The Oompa Loompas in the original were way better. Their dances and songs sounded more natural and each one was unique. In the new version, they cast actor Deep Roy who is of short stature, but not a dwarf, and cloned him via CGI, AND made him ridiculously small, think pygmy; way, way less original; and It wasn't even him singing. It was Danny Elfman, the film's musical producer.

In general, I enjoyed the film, and I would buy a DVD copy on Amazon for cheap because I think it's one that I would watch over and over, but I never got the sense of wonder I got when I watched the original.

IMDb gives Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 6.8 stars; The Toast gives it 6.5.

IMDb gives Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 7.8 starts; The Toast agrees.