Saturday, February 04, 2006

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

2005, US, directed by Tim Burton

It's hardly original to note that Tim Burton seems more at ease with set design than human emotions, but it's no less true in this film. What's especially striking here is the fact that he doesn't seem incapable of telling an interesting human story. The early scenes, depicting life in the Bucket household before Charlie (played by the precocious Freddie Highmore) finds the Golden Ticket which guarantees him a day in Willy Wonka's factory, are surprisingly warm and tender. Charlie is the least remarkable of the five children who win the chance to visit the factory, but because the others are remarkable entirely in a negative sense the outcome of the tale is hardly in doubt. Roald Dahl's narrative creates great potential for wild and extravagant visuals, and Burton indulges himself as much as any Wonka-bar lover. At times the visuals are genuinely bewitching - especially in the musical sequences - but sometimes they seem like poor copies of the imaginative backdrops for the 1971 film version. As Willy Wonka himself, Johnny Depp is plain weird, even in the context of a surreal fairy tale. By contrast, Freddie Highmore does a creditable job, and it's fun to see veteran Irish actor David Kelly getting some decent screen time as Charlie's grandad.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States