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Rediff.com  » Movies » Endless wonders, darkly, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Endless wonders, darkly, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

July 16, 2005 03:53 IST

Though there is enough wonder and a riot of colors in filmmaker Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory right from the time the start, the delirious but often dark events that unfold after 30 minutes could not have been easily imagined even by those who are familiar with film's source.

 

The briskly-paced movie (for most part) acquires much more energy and urgency once the five children get into the mysterious chocolate factory, and are led on a tour by the reclusive owner Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp with more than a nod to Michael Jackson). As we see the troublesome four children being vanquished, we feel at once a bit of terror and exhilaration.

 

The exhilaration comes from watching how Burton makes the factory an endless wonder, filling it with not only with eye-popping gadgets and an army of (mostly) live squirrels but also Oompa-Loompas, the army of pint-sized assistants.

 

Burton, uses certain amount of digital duplications in creating 165 Oompa-Loompas but actor Deep Roy who plays the strange creatures had to provide facial expressions and body language for nearly two dozen of them seen in close-ups. 

 

Conducting himself with deadpan expressions, the four feet and four inches tall Deep Roy, who has been playing bit roles in Hollywood movies for nearly three decades, dominates the screen in the four lively song and dance sequences. And he gets to have the last laugh in the film. Watch out, then, for the fade out scene.

 

Some viewers may find that for a film that also seeks to celebrate family values, Charlie and Chocolate Factory offers subdued emotions. A few, particularly those who are not familiar with the Roald Dahl's 1964 classic and international bestseller that inspired the film, may not like the idea of the children being humiliated. But there is enough inventiveness, solid acting and riot of color and sounds to make Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a fun summer movie event

 

The scrumptious movie, which will amuse the young movie fans instantly and will dazzle the older ones, also packs in plenty of thoughts about responsible parenting, alienation of youth from parents, and the wages of greed.

 

Charlie Bucket (a very natural Freddie Highmore), a good-hearted boy from an impoverished family, has spent his young life sipping bland cabbage soup in a hovel with his down and out father (Noah Taylor), plucky mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and four bed-confined grandparents, including Grandpa Joe (David Kelly who has quite a few scene-stealing moments).


Charlie passes Willy Wonka's factory, wondering what is inside it. He also wonders why  Wonka  will not rehire Uncle Joe.

 

Charlie then learns that many years ago Wonka banished his workers because his trade secrets have been sold out.  And he suspected everyone. And yet soon he had resumed producing mysteriously his toothsome delights. Who works for Wonka, and why are the workers not seen coming out of the factory wonders Charlie 

 

Suddenly there is an announcement that Wonka is running a contest in which five lucky children, upon finding a golden certificate under a Wonka candy wrapper, will be invited to spend a day in his factory, with an adult of their choice. Though we know Charlie will be one of the winners, scriptwriter John August and Burton create low suspense situations leading to the boy winning the prize.

 

The four other lucky winners are introduced swiftly. Their introduction is quite funny but what happens to them when they enter the factory and display their usual temperament is quite something else.

 

The children are: the gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz); the spoiled, vain and greedy Veruca Salt (Julia Winter); the egomaniac Violet Beauregarde (Anna Sophia Robb) and the TV junkie Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry).

 

As Wonka punishes each of the misbehaving children, the Oompa-Loompas break into delightfully orchestrated songs, sung by composer Danny Elfman . It is during the tour that we get more insights into Wonka, his lonely childhood and his relationship with his demanding father (Christopher Lee)

 

Despite the magical sets (even the hovel looks like a dream) and gadgets-dominated scenes, Burton knows nothing matches the magic of human expressions.

 

While the film is filled with interesting performances, the most mesmerizing one comes from Depp making Wonka a larger than life but a sad and  perverse billionaire. But Depp also makes his character suitably subdued when the redemptive process starts and Wonka learns a few valuable lessons from young Charlie.

 

While Dahl purists could have blast of a time arguing how faithful the movie is to the book or if it is better than an earlier version starring Gene Wilder, many moviegoers will thank Burton for making a smart, exhilarating and often funny summer film It vies with Batman Begins for the best summer movie of 2005. Incidentally, both films were produced by Warner Bros.

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Directed by Tim Burton

Written by John August, based on the book by Roald Dahl

Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, with Deep Roy and Christopher Lee

Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Rating: PG (for quirky situations, action and mild language)
Arthur J Pais in New York