Monday, July 25, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

We treated ourselves to a movie in the theater yesterday. We almost never go to the movies, but I suspect we'll see a couple more before the end of the year, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which comes out around my birthday, and Tim Burton's next film, Corpse Bride, which looks like it's in the style of A Nightmare Before Christmas. Chris is a Tim Burton fan, so we try to see his films when we have the budget.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

There's a spoiler or two in here, but I tried to keep it to a minimum.

Although this is marketed as a kid's film, it's got that same juxtaposition of darkness and light that was in the original book. I wouldn't read the book to a small child and I wouldn't take a small child to this film. I wouldn't take a child under about 9 or 10.

This film is one of those you'll either love or hate. My family and I loved it. In order to appreciate it, you have to rid yourself of preconceived notions garnered by having read the book and seen the earlier film. Apparently, though, it helps to have read the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. My son's friend commented that some of what was in this film was taken from that book. It's been too many years since I read it for me to agree or disagree with that statement.

The film vacillated back and forth between light and delightful fun and dark and scary things. Unlike the original, this wasn't about how Charlie passed the Everlasting Gobstopper test and won the chocolate factory. This was about Charlie and Willie Wonka's relationship, how it built and how Charlie helped Willie grow and by doing so, earned the factory. That growth is what the flashbacks into Willie's past, triggered by Charlie's questions are all about.

In between, we got the delightful factory tour. We got to watch the icky kids get their comeuppance. The Oompa Loompa songs paid tribute to a lot of pop history, from the era of Busby Berkeley and Esther Williams, right up through Queen and techno stuff. There were tributes to movies of the past, too, including the Wizard of Oz and Edward Scissorhands. He also skewered some cultural icons. But I won't spoil it by saying what they were.

There was a lot of humor in it, too. We laughed out loud a lot. I'm not going to put any spoilers on the humor, though. You can go laugh for yourself.

They showed what happened to the bad kids after they were carted off to their various fates, which was something I'd wished had been in the earlier film. They updated the kids' characters to reflect more modern times. For example, they made Mike TV a video-game playing geek instead of a cowboy. I miss the geese and the golden eggs, even though the squirrels allowed a groaner pun into the film. I didn't believe that a child would want a squirrel that's nothing more than a trained nutcracker. It made more sense to me that a child would want a goose that laid a golden egg.

All in all, I'd recommend that you go to the film and make up your own mind. This isn't a film I'd say you could decide whether you'll like it or not based on what someone else says. It doesn't have clunkers that would cause me not to recommend it. But I can see how a lot of people expecting a faithful rendition of the story they're used to might be disappointed in it.