Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PG)

Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Directed by Tim Burton
On general release from 29th July 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

The 1971 adaptation of this classic children’s tale was probably the first film I ever watched all the way through. I was six years old and I was the world’s biggest Roald Dahl fan when it came on TV. This was surely going to be one of the greatest moments of my young life. But no, the puke orange psychedelic scenery was definitely not how I had dreamed things, and the genial twinkle in Gene Wilder’s eye was nowhere near menacing enough for my taste. Eighteen years later, Tim Burton has created a chocolate factory close to the one produced by my fevered childhood imagination, and a generation of kids will no doubt thank him for it.

Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) is the world’s greatest and most mysterious chocolatier. No-one ever goes in or out of his factory, yet he manages to concoct incredible confectionary that slays the competition. He hides golden tickets in five bars, inviting the lucky recipients to visit the legendary factory and learn the chocolaty secrets. Funny how that seems like a cynical marketing ploy now. Anyway, Charlie Bucket’s family is so poor they can only afford one bar a year, so his chances of getting inside the gates seem remote. But of course he finds the final ticket and even gets his grandpa (David Kelly) out of bed to see how his former employer is getting on.

As is to be expected from the Burton/Depp pairing, this is nicely dark and extremely appealing visually. Depp has denied claims he based his depiction of Wonka on people such as his celeb pal Marilyn Manson or even Michael Jackson, but there is more than a pinch of both in the character’s indeterminate is-he-good-or-is-he-bad ambiguity. Freddie Highmore makes an annoyingly posh Charlie, and on reflection the morals of this morality tale are worryingly small town conservative. But there are the usual parent-friendly extra jokes, and an imaginative back-story is added, which gives us new ideas about the kind of background that could have produced the weird and wonderful character that Willy Wonka undoubtedly is.

This is a perfect summer holiday film that will be enjoyed by almost everyone over the age of about four, and it produced squeals of delight from both the young and the not so young anymore.

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