Another proper Charlie of a movie from Tim Burton to follow the lamentable, wet ‘Big Fish’? Thankfully, no. Burton is on much safer ground here with a charming children’s film that embraces imaginative production design and a wonderful creepy performance from Johnny Depp as the reclusive confectioner, Willy Wonka. It’s fitting that Burton, who rejects CGI in favour of real sets, should be at the helm of a story that was conceived by Roald Dahl in 1964 partly to lament the onset of modernity. The film’s opening sequence, which depicts hundreds of industrious Oompa Loompas (all played by a 4' 4" Deep Roy) appears at first to be a rhythmic, colourful celebration of mass production, but we soon learn that Mr Bucket (Noah Taylor), the father of our young hero, Charlie (Freddie Highmore) is lingering in unemployment, having been replaced by a machine at the local toothpaste factory. We discover too that Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) was earlier the victim of a mass lay-off, this time at Wonka’s fabulous chocolate plant itself, which looms over the Bucket’s ramshackle house like a dark Gothic castle. Tradition is the order of the day. Like Dahl’s book, the film stresses the importance of family over personal ambition, love over selfish desire. The plot, too, remains largely as Dahl left it: five golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars allow four brats and a saintly Charlie to visit Wonka’s secret factory, but all the kids bar Charlie are soon ejected in tragi-comic fashion. Burton’s one major concession to the twenty-first century is an unnecessary sub-plot that explores Wonka’s estrangement from his father, the dentist Dr Wonka (Christopher Lee). And Charlie – surprise, surprise – provides the bridge to reconciliation. It’s soppy stuff, and recalls the grating father-son element of ‘Big Fish’.The kaleidoscopic sets apart, Depp is the film’s pièce de resistance. He carves a character defined by angular physical presence and alien diction. His Wonka is a strange hybrid: the costume of Michael Jackson; the lingo of Austin Powers; the hairstyle of Olivier’s Richard III; the top hat of a undertaker… It’s a sweet cocktail.
|Release date:||Tuesday February 19 2013|
Cast and crew
Helena Bonham Carter