Matt Dann Film Reviews
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Published: Monday 13 April 2020
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee
Duration: 115 minutes
Available: Stan, Google Play, YouTube
As it’s Easter time, why not review a film with a central premise of all things sweet and new beginnings?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released in 2005, with Johnny Depp playing the weird and wonderful Willy Wonka, and a young Freddie Highmore (The Good Doctor) playing the bright eyed Charlie. The film is based on the 1964 novel of the same name by the legendary children’s author Roald Dahl, which was also turned into the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
For those not familiar with the story, a highly secretive chocolate factory in an undisclosed location, which has been closed for many years, suddenly launches a global golden ticket competition to grant five lucky children access to a factory tour. Charlie, one of the story’s central characters, lives in a dilapidated weather board house with his mother, father and grandparents – although they don’t have a lot of money, they have plenty of heart and good humour. He is one of the lucky children, with the equally funny and frightening Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) guiding these children on the tour.
Charlie endears the audience from the start: in a touching moment, he shares his one-chocolate-bar-a-year with the entire family, all shivering in the icy draft of the old house. As the global golden ticket competition rolls on, a series of undeserving and spoilt children claim the first four golden tickets, splashed over newspaper front pages and the nightly news: Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee. Fate has Charlie claim the last remaining ticket, when he stumbles across a fluttering bank note in the snowy street which he uses to purchase a Wonka Bar. In another display of care, he insists on selling the ticket so the money can go to his family: his brash grandpa has none of it, convincing Charlie that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that simply can’t be given away. The rest of the story follows the five children and their care givers as they tour the factory, encountering the dark magic of Mr Wonka’s labyrinth of chocolate laboratories and oompa-loompa manned experimentation rooms (played brilliantly by Deep Roy), with each child coming face to face with their true characters.
What makes the 2005 film version of the story so special is that director Tim Burton has created a timeless, location-less world with such a strong visual identity. The costumes, the sets, the music, the special effects, the dialogue: every element comes together in perfect unison to transport the viewer to Wonka’s world. This version clearly benefits from digital special effects, as a lot of the scenes would not have been possible to create in 1971. The story’s children and their care givers are one in the same: this aspect of the film is a not-so-subtle commentary on the dangers of spoiling children to excess, sung in sarcastic tandem to the audience by an army of oompa-loompas as each child comes to their demise. For example, as Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river, the oompa-loompas waste no time in singing “Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop, the great big greedy, nincompoop.”
The striking part of this movie is how dark it is in parts: it doesn’t shy away from showing Willy Wonka’s father burning his boyhood stash of Halloween candy as the young Willy watches on, or making at least a visual commentary on the harsh inequalities which permeate society. Why does Charlie’s family have so little while the other families have so much? Even though Charlie has so little, why is he so much more caring? Although perhaps lost on younger children, the story can teach primary school and high school students valuable life lessons and make them think about the big picture. Although on the surface it’s the story of a lucky young boy named Charlie who wins a golden ticket to tour a magical chocolate factory, the audience also gets a gob-stopper sized taste of gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, pride, wrath and more.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) gets our “Matt Dann seal of approval.”