Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I took my friend’s 11-year-old daughter to see Tim Burton’s adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last Saturday.

The first half-hour is so good, I cried. Literally. At least one tear streamed down each of my cheeks. Noah Taylor and Helena Bonham Carter are so endearing as Charlie’s parents, and David Kelly (1998′s Waking Ned Devine) is so good as Grandpa Joe, and all the characters are so giving and loving that I just wanted to spend the day in their cramped, skewed, little home.

Charlie himself is played by the talented Freddie Highmore, who appeared last year in the tiger movie Two Brothers and also co-starred with his Charlie co-star Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland; he played the boy after whom Peter Pan is named.

And it was good to see AnnaSophia Robb on the big screen again — she plays Violet Beauregarde — and to be able to impress my young friend by telling her that I had “met” Robb on the Because of Winn-Dixie junket (my junket report; my review).

(Come to think of it, I had a private 15-minute conversation with Bonham Carter nine years ago, too, when she was promoting Margaret’s Museum here in Canada — check page 3 of this PDF file — but I forgot to mention that to my friend until afterwards.)

But even as I let the tears trickle, I suspected the fun would come to an end once we entered Wonka-land.

And, um, it did come to an end — at least for me. But since I have never read the book and have never cared for the 1971 Gene Wilder film, I may not be the best person to comment on this.

I do wonder, though — did the Willy Wonka of either of the earlier versions have unresolved issues to deal with, concerning his relationship with his father (played here by Christopher Lee, kind of doing the dad-figure thing in this film that Vincent Price did in 1990′s Edward Scissorhands)? This feels like a bit of unnecessary revisionist backstory-ing — kind of like what happened to the Grinch in Ron Howard’s movie — but I could be wrong.

At any rate, between this and Big Fish (2004; my review), which also concerned a grown man estranged from his own father, it does seem Burton may be working out some issues.

And all the buzz about Depp resembling Michael Jackson actually distracted me from trying to appreciate his performance on its own merits. I kept thinking Michael, Michael, Michael …

Anyway, suffice to say Tim Burton is a real hit-and-miss director for me, and this film was mostly a miss. But only mostly.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09612490280344321555 Targuman

    You asked:
    I do wonder, though — did the Willy Wonka of either of the earlier versions have unresolved issues to deal with, concerning his relationship with his father (played here by Christopher Lee, kind of doing the dad-figure thing in this film that Vincent Price did in 1990′s Edward Scissorhands)? This feels like a bit of unnecessary revisionist backstory-ing — kind of like what happened to the Grinch in Ron Howard’s movie — but I could be wrong.

    Last week at the beach :-) I was reading (I think it was) Newsweek and they quoted Depp talking about how he and Burton created the back story about the dad, etc. in order to help Depp get a handle on the character and differentiate it from Wilder’s version.

    I have yet to see it, but I am eager to do so…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08716744003060914867 Julie

    Back story or no, Greydanus is totally wrong about this movie. Tim Burton’s genius interpretation and backstory in no way detracted from the book, and, in fact, improved upon it. The message of the importance of family came through clearly.
    As for seeing Michael Jackson, I dunno, I saw Carol Burnett. What does that prove? To allow one’s bias which had been based on having heard another’s take, to cloud your view is to have missed an excellent performance by Depp. This movie was wonderful. It would be a crime if Greydanus’ review kept parents, children or anyone away.


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