|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Sunday, January 14, 2007 |
( 1/14/2007 07:54:00 AM ) Bill S.
OOM-PA-DEE-DOO – Watching an episode of The Office Friday, wherein Ed Helms' villainous office schemer makes two different refs to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, spurred me into viewing Tim Burton's remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this weekend. More than one parent of my acquaintance of the past year – after viewing this movie with their kids – has expressed their distaste for Burton's version: "Too dark!" they say, doubtless comparing it to the more brightly coloured Mel Stuart-directed original, though the tone is considerably closer to the black-hearted Roald Dahl children’s book that is the story source.
I liked the flick, even if it is far from Burton's best (why that would be . . . Mars Attacks!*) The fx and overall look, as ever, are marvelous (best ruined kid moment: Violet Beauregard's transformation into a giant blueberry), but I never once cared for central nice kid Charlie. Johnny Depp's Wonka is darkly amusing – comes across like a blending of Michael Jackson, Brini Maxwell & the Church Lady – but, as with Matthew Broderick in the new Producers, he pales in comparison to Gene Wilder's original performance. (I remember seeing Willie when it came out in the theater: it was the first time I'd ever seen Wilder on-screen, and I was transfixed by him.) The Oompa-Loompas are fun – cinematically multiplied Deep Roy gives 'em sly personality where before they were just a scolding chorus line – but as much as I'll jump at any chance to see Christopher Lee one more time on the big screen, I've gotta admit, his addition to the storyline as Willie's father detracted considerably from the story. Like Steven Spielberg, Burton seems to've gotten stuck on the idea that fantasy is primarily a vehicle for working out your father issues, but this time that obsession pointlessly domesticates a character who was meant to be clouded in mystery – and more than a little sinister . . .