30 September 2006

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (starring Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore)

Many, many years ago I saw the 1970s film 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', which I remember enjoying. So I was a bit surprised when there was a remake in 2005, retitled 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' like the children's book by Roald Dahl which it is based on.

I don't suppose we would have bothered to see this film, but our teenage son was interested, put it on his wishlist, and received it for his 17th birthday. So we decided to watch it as a family.

I was a bit surprised at first to find that Willy Wonka, brilliantly played by Johnny Depp, is really nothing like the more cuddly Wonka of the 1971 adaptation. He is truly bizarre. But I had to admit that he was a lot closer to the bizarre, show-host-like Willy Wonka of Dahl's creation.

Freddie Highmore co-stars as Charlie, the very poor boy who lives with his parents and bedridden grandparents, but who - amazingly - manages to find a golden ticket that will allow him to spend a day in the world famous chocolate factory. The other children who win are spoilt rich kids, all unpleasant in different ways, and delightfully caricatured.

The special effects are stunning, particularly the oompa-loompas; we were amazed at what we thought was the brilliant choreography, too, until we saw the 'extras' and learned that they were played by just one person.

The only odd thing about this adaptation is that there is a whole extra storyline about Willy Wonka's father, which does not appear to have anything to do with the Roald Dahl book, and did not add anything much to the film, other than some length. Moreover, it didn't seem to be of any interest to children, who would be expected to be the primary audience.

Nonetheless, overall we thought it a very good film and would recommend it.

Note: the Amazon links are to the inexpensive versions with the film alone; you can also get a two-disc version, at higher price, which has some good extras including information about how the movie was made.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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