A/V Room









Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PG)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 5 making of featurettes. Attack of the Squirrels. Fantastic Mr Dahl. Becoming an Oompa-Loompa. DVD Menu Challenges - Oompa-Loompa Dance, The Inventing Machine, The Bad Nut, Search For the Golden Ticket. DVD-ROM - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory PC game demo and web links.

THERE are times when Tim Burton's take on Roald Dahl's classic children's tale resembles one of Willy Wonka's over-sized chocolate bars a little too closely - in that too much can leave you feeling decidedly sick.

But for the most part, the film is a bittersweet crowd-pleaser, one that stays largely faithful to Dahl's original text, while containing all the visual flourishes and dark humour we have come to expect from Burton.

What's more, it features another terrific performance from Johnny Depp that comes dripping in the actor's own distinct style.

Dahl's story remains timeless, having first appeared as a novel in 1964 and then inspiring the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in 1971.

Part fantasy adventure, part morality tale, the story focuses on a poor but kind-hearted child named Charlie ( Freddie Highmore, of Finding Neverland fame), whose family struggles to make ends meet just a stone's throw from Charlie's chocolate factory.

The family may be down on their luck but they seldom dwell on their misfortune, with Charlie's loving mum (Helena Bonham Carter) and recently unemployed dad (Noah Taylor) always there to encourage him, while both sets of grandparents offer light-hearted bickering and quirky anecdotes from the communal bed they all share.

Charlie's fortunes change, however, when he wins a world-wide competition offering five children a guided tour of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory by the recluse himself if they find a golden ticket in one of his bars.

Each child is accompanied by one adult, so Charlie agrees to take his excited grandfather, Joe (David Kelly), since he used to work in the Wonka factory before it was closed to the public.

Yet while Charlie and Joe eschew good values and decency, the remaining four children do not - and all remain intent on winning the grand mystery prize that is also being offered by Wonka at the end of the tour.

Joining this magical mystery tour, therefore, are Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), an overwight German with an insatiable lust for sweets; Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), a spoiled little rich girl prone to temper tantrums whenever her father (James Fox) fails to obey her; Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) a fiercely competitive chewing gum record-holder; and Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), a destructive computer games freak who thinks he knows more than anyone.

All meet their comeuppance in some way, by refusing to abide by the rules of the chocolate factory, or respect the genius of Charlie's creative energy.

It is during such moments, however, that the film becomes repetitive before piling on the sentiment for the sugar-coated finale.

Each time a child over-steps the mark, his 'demise' is marked by a song and dance routine from the Oompa Loompas (all played by the same actor, Deep Roy), which threatens to disrupt the flow.

While the extended resolution, which comes courtesy of John August's script, expands on Willy Wonka's back story to reiterate the message about the importance of family and finds him seeking a reunion with his candy-hating dentist father (Christopher Lee).

It's almost as though Burton and co wanted to have their chocolate cake and eat it without a care in the world for the overdose of calories.

A more slim-line Charlie might have worked better, although that's not to say the film falters badly.

In look and design alone, Charlie resembles the best of Burton's work and is a visual treat from start to finish (recalling the Gothic look of Batman and taking in modern pop-art references).

While several of the set pieces - including a section involving squirrels - are brilliantly quirky and wildly inventive.

The performances, too, are pretty much spot-on, with Highmore as sensitive and sweet as they come (his chemistry with Depp picking up where it left off in Neverland), and the likes of Winter, Kelly and Lee all making the most of their support.

But it is Depp who provides that extra layer of chocolate to make things so finger-licking good, presenting us with a wonderfully off-kilter Wonka whose obvious distaste for precocious children is wonderfully observed and wryly delivered.

Even during the film's most sickly-sweet moments, he manages to rise above the sentiment to sprinkle his own form of magic over proceedings, thereby ensuring that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory provides the golden ticket for families this summer.

Related stories: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory special feature

Johnny Depp: Read the full interview

Tim Burton: Read the full interview

Freddie Highmore interview

David Kelly interview

Charlie savours sweet success at US box office

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