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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Last night I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I was really impressed. I’d expected it to be pretty good anyway, because all the reviews and trailers had suggested as much, but it still managed to exceed my expectations. I’ll discuss it heading by heading, with the most important matter first:

Christopher Lee
His role as Willy Wonka’s dentist father is small, but important. He lurks behind Wonka’s neuroses throughout the film, and gets three appearances – two flash-backs (in which you do have to suspend your disbelief a little about him being the father of a ten-year-old boy) and one present-day scene. He is perfectly chilling and uncompromising, and looms impressively over his son, beautifully conveying the frightening appearance of adult authority to the young. In short, great work – as one would expect!

Johnny Depp
Also brilliant. His Wonka is seriously damaged, and yet somehow charming and vulnerable too. Not much else to say, really - typically great Depp stuff

Other actors
Hats off to the various child actors involved, who did such a good job that it wasn’t really until I got home that I remembered that they were child actors, and therefore could well have turned out to be utterly awful. Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) was great too, and giving him a back-story as an ex-worker in Wonka’s factory helped a lot with building up the sense of wonder and mystery about it in the early part of the film.

The Oompa-Loompas
All played by one guy – Deep Roy. He must have had his work cut out. Generally very good (music to be treated separately, though), and rather more convincing as a jungle tribe with their own real and serious culture than their orange-faced cousins from the Gene Wilder film. The computer wizardry needed to replicate Mr. Roy and shrink him down was generally flawless, but, as is often the case when a variety of different camera tricks and special effects are used to make a character seem larger (e.g. Hagrid) or smaller than they really are, perfect consistency about just how small they were actually supposed to be was lacking. Sometimes they seemed about three or four feet tall, sometimes only one foot. But their synchronised swimming scene in the chocolate river was enough to make me forgive that.

Dialogue, setting, action
All sparkling, with plenty of straightforward humour, but lots of fine detail too, and a fair old helping of material for adults to enjoy. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know all about the BDSM cow – if you haven’t, look out for it! (I predict that that cow will become the LJ icon to die for just as soon as anyone gets the chance to take screen-caps of it). I laughed hysterically and frequently, and spent much of the film in a state of delight and surprise too, most often because of cute little nods to other films which popped up from time to time (e.g. Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Here I was a little less impressed. The theme which was on the trailers, and which plays when the children first arrive at the factory (‘Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka, the amazing chocolatier’, etc.) was brilliant. But the Oompa-Loompas’ songs I really wasn’t so sure about. I did respect the fact that the used Roald Dahl’s original lyrics for the songs from the books, but I felt they didn’t live up to the rest of the film for fun and engagement. The choreography was definitely good, but the music behind it just seemed lacklustre. Maybe I need to listen to them more carefully, but that was my initial impression. I also felt atmospheric music could have been used a bit more effectively to build up and convey the wonder of the various rooms in the factory.

Relationship to the book
Closer than the Mel Stuart / Gene Wilder film, partly because advances in technology meant it could be – e.g. they were able to show a team of trained squirrels cracking nuts where Mel Stuart decided not to try. The main change, in fact, was the back-story about Wonka’s relationship with his father, and the contrast which was drawn with Charlie Bucket’s attachment to his family. This led to an ending which was literally sugar-coated, but it did strengthen the film thematically and also meant cool scenes with Christopher Lee, so I think it was a good move overall.

Overall rating
8/10 (note – I am a harsh critic. Even The Wicker Man would probably only get a 9/10 from me. So that means ‘very, very good’).

After the film, damien_mocata and I raided Woolies for our beloved Fox’s Liquorice and Aniseed sweets, and of course also gorged ourselves on Wonka bars. I can report that their Triple Dazzle Caramel is really delicious – smooth, firm caramel in a sweet white chocolate coating – but that their Nutty Crunch Surprise is a bit cloying after more than a couple of blocks.

Then it was back to captainlucy, h0pal0ng and blondiebear17’s place to play a bafflingly complex game of Munchkin involving three different sets of cards joined together and playing up to a whopping 22 levels. The game ended up lasting for the best part of three hours, and at about 2:40am, we basically wound up allowing kuro_ryoushi to win so that we could all crawl off to our beds... Whereupon I slept until 3:30 this afternoon. Hooray!

Review part about to be cross-posted to christopherlee_


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2005 08:29 am (UTC)
I am probably the ony person on the planet who has never seen the Gene Wilder film. Most people seem to think of it as a bit of a classic so perhaps I should ahve a Chocolate Factory fest and borrow th DVD of that before I see the other one...
Jul. 31st, 2005 11:07 am (UTC)
I think I said to you while you were here that I'd found it better than I'd remembered when I watched it on Channel 5 last Sunday. I was certainly glad I'd seen it recently when I saw the new one. There are a few little nods in its direction from the new film.
Jul. 31st, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
You slept to 3.30pm??? Lucky thing! I was woken by the DOE digging up the street outside my bedroom window at 9am! (So was blondiebear17!)

But yes, it was a most entertaining movie! Christopher Lee was, as ever, excellent in his role, and I reckon Deep Roy must have had an absolute blast doing the Oompa-Loompas! :D

On a related note, I can now see Deep Roy taking on Angelo Muscat's role of the Butler in any future movie of "The Prisoner", which would be a very nice symmetry, as Angelo actually played an Oompa Loompa in "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"! :D
Jul. 31st, 2005 01:23 pm (UTC)
Ooh, yes, Deep Roy would be excellent in that role, you're quite right. Is anyone planning a Prisoner movie, then? It could be really cool - but it could be totally dreadful as well.
Jul. 31st, 2005 01:25 pm (UTC)
There have been so many attempts over the years to do a "Prisoner" movie, I've lost count. Last rumour I heard about (about 3 years ago) was planning to have someone like Matt Damon or Ben Affleck as Number 6! Unsurprisingly, I haven't heard anything about this idea since!
Jul. 31st, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
Thank goodness!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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