Dahl and Burton … soul mates?
At one point during the first five minutes of Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” I thought I was watching “Edward Scissorhands, the Sequel.”When Johnny Depp – opening the latest of his quirky, show-commanding performances as Willy Wonka – cut open the ribbon to his previously locked and closed chocolate factory, his silhouette holding the unnecessarily long sheers looked eerily identical to every standing scene he played as Scissorhands.After that it was apparent that Burton had not in fact, gotten his characters crossed.The cast and costumes, snowy cityscapes, unbelievable fairy-book sets and chocolate factory wonderland scenes in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” would surely find Roald Dahl smiling in his grave.
The story line in Burton’s “Chocolate Factory” was also a bit closer to Dahl’s 1962 novel than director Mel Stuart’s 1971 version, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”There were, however, some completely new touches. Depp’s incarnation of Willy Wonka, for example, was something akin to Michael Jackson in his “Thriller” days. You couldn’t decide if his skin’s hue was whitish or greenish. The effeminate, high-pitch yet soft voice – “Little boy, I wouldn’t do that if I were you …” – was amusing.Although Willy Wonka’s character in Dahl’s book and in Stuart’s film was slightly jaded by untrustworthy people who could potentially reveal the secrets of his sweet inventions, Depp’s Wonka takes on a whole new scale of issues.As he conducts his tour through the factory, uncomfortably and sardonically replying to the children’s questions, Wonka periodically tilts his head and stares blankly in reflective nostalgia. His flashbacks spiral into his childhood, where we see a disturbing portrait of little Willy complete in spider-like head gear and braces – a byproduct of his father’s career as a militant dentist. According to http://www.imdb.com, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” screenwriter John August wrote the character of Dr. Wonka (played by Christopher Lee) specifically for the film to give Willy Wonka’s character more Depp, er, depth. The site also says that August wrote his entire script having never seen the 1971 film.
At any rate, little Wonka’s career choice is completely understandable after catching a glimpse of his sugar-deprived upbringing. Although the 1971 cast of children was hard to beat, the roles of prissy and demanding Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), the gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) and electronics-crazed Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry) and gum-smacking Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) were filled impeccably.Also, if Depp and his abrupt and incisive commentaries on human flaws didn’t provide the biggest chuckles in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” then the Oompa Loompa’s multi-genre musical numbers were a close second. I couldn’t tell if the Oompa’s, in their disco-heavy metal-soft rock moral lessons, were singing the lyric’s from Dahl’s brilliant text, the songs from the 1971 film or all-knew lyrics, but were delivered completely in sync with new-fangled choreography and vocals/instrumentals conducted by orchestral genius Danny Elfman.It doesn’t take a Tim Burton fan to agree that “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a cinematic masterpiece. Roald Dahl readers will surely be satisfied and those who loved the 1971 film will probably feel that the factory’s assembly crew has taken on a new shine. You’ll want to take a dip in the chocolate river.
Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com. VAil Colorado