Let’s boogie.

I have returned.

Spent the weekend in Waterloo with M. Was great being with him. Unfortunately, I had taken a detour the Amazonian rainforest and no one had told me.

We went to the Menonite farmer’s market, which was certainly a highlight of the weekend. Had a great time. Unfortunately, when the homos arrived at the meca of conservative religious fundamentalism in Southern Ontario…

…the heaven’s opened up.

I’ve not seen rain like that in AGES. I don’t even remember rain like that ever occuring in Toronto. Probably coz I was in Waterloo and not in Toronto to experience it…erm…nevermind.

The market was AMAZING. Best veggies I’ve had in a long time. đŸ™‚

We went out for drinks one night, got nicely toasted.

We also visited the Conestoga Mall, which as M pointed out, looked eerily like the Landford Mall from Roseanne. Fun times.

Also, we went to the Galaxy Cinema to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

WARNING: If you don’t want to know what happens, don’t read this. I make no apologies; this is riddled with spoilers.

C&TCF is probably my favourite book from my childhood, and the first film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) is a bonefide classic (the title was changed from ‘Charlie’ to ‘Willy Wonka’ for the 1971 film because Quaker, who was financing a large part of the film, wanted to draw attention to it’s Willy Wonka line of candy, which was based on the character from the original book). If you’re not interested in my detailed thoughts, my grade on the film is a B.

I think Tim Burton, despite how hackneyed his style has become; how trite and contrived his well-thought out, completely-non-random, anti-whimsical quirkiness has become so ingrained in everyone’s perception of his recent films, was meant to make this film. The illustrations from the original book are very faithfully brought to the screen, and the book’s general oddness is really captured nicely.

The children are all PERFECTLY cast, with the possible exception of Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole in the 1971 picture), who I think was slightly better in the original film only because of her delivery of the classic, “Daddy. I want an Oompa Loompa…NOooooooooOOoOooooW!” The girl in the new film just wasn’t whiny enough. She certainly had the bitchiness down, but was oddly sympathetic when she was finally ‘offed’ in the movie because she wasn’t as horrible as necessary. The rest of the kids; Augustus Gloomp, Violet Beauregard and Mike Teevee were all improvements, thankfully.

The kid playing Charlie was sweet and had me tearing up when he was offering to sell his Golden Ticket so his family could eat. đŸ˜¦ Such a sweetheart.

The family was very good, too, although Burton casting Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Bucket tilted quite obviously towards nepotism as Mrs. Bucket is supposed to be at death’s door (which was much more credible in the original film than this one). Glad to see Mr. Bucket survived into this film (he was inexplicably absent from the first film – possibly to make Charlie even MORE tragic).

The grandparents were GREAT, especially the nice casting of Liz Smith (The Vicar of Dibley) as Grandma Georgina (my personal fave of the oldies since that is actually my grandmother’s real name).

Grandpa Joe, I have to admit, was much more charming and funny in the first film, played by the wonderful Jack Albertson (the most well known actor in the original cast). The actor playing Grandpa Joe in the new film was good, don’t get me wrong, but no one could outdo Jack Albertson dancing around the rickety old house singing, “I’ve got a Golden Ticket!” Also, I don’t think Joe worked in the factory in the book or 1971 film.

The look of the film is much improved from the 1971 version, partially due to Burton’s production designer, Alex McDowell, although admittedly, it does look like Batman Returns Part II. The snowy outdoor scenes of the factory, with Danny Elfman’s music pounding, look like the Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is FINALLY returning to the big screen…alas, all for nowt.

The Bucket household is perfect, inside and out – exactly as I’d pictured it as a child. The factory exterior is amazing, as well, but again, looks like the Penguin’s new lair. The 1971 film was shot in Munich, so it would look anti-American and anti-English, but it lacked that really off-the-wall quality that is captured in this movie.

The look of the factory interior, also is amazing, again improving on the 1971 version.

Unfortunately, most of the IMPROVEMENTS are solely due to throwing more money at the screen and don’t contain any of the heart of the first film. The first room, when they enter, didn’t contain the contract from the book or the first movie, which I thought was quite amusing as it really tells the children everything that’s going to happen and eliminates the plot hole of “Why didn’t they sue Wonka?”

Also, one thing that changed was the room that shrinks (which they did in this new version but as a throwaway – I doubt children would even understand what happened – pooh on the bad editing in this scene).

The chocolate room is BREATHTAKING, but then again, as a child I found the original room breathtaking. This one, though, really captures the spirit of the book, especially since you can’t see walls anyway – which sadly, is something that mars the original (again, due to budget).

The Oompa Loompas don’t look as cute, in fact, they’re downright ugly, but they’re choreography and singing was very amusing. Again, not as charming as the original, where the song always remained the same and you could read the words (this is a children’s movie after all. Let’s not kid ourselves). I also loved how they were all played by the same actor, really made them quite freaky.

Many things were changed for no reason that I could determine:

– Mike Teevee’s mother is no longer his guardian, it’s now Mr. Teevee. Although he’s a geography teacher, like Mrs. Teevee in the book and first film.

– the ‘announcement’ of one child being given a ‘special’ prize (I don’t remember this from the book and I know it’s not in the first movie. The prize they ALL got was a lifetime supply of chocolate, the “special” prize was a surprise to Charlie)

– in the 1971 film, Veruca was offed by geese laying golden eggs, because the squirrel room, as written in the original book was slightly impossible at the time. Thankfully, they’ve changed it back to squirrels in this new movie (however, it should be noted that the 1971 line “She was a bad egg” is much better than “She was a bad nut” in the book and in the new movie. “Don’t touch that squirrel’s nuts!” was obvious, but still amusing).

– despite what I had been told, the full-length songs were NOT used in the new movie…major disappointment for me there.

– several gags from the book are missing, like the flavoured wall-paper, the aforementioned fizzy lifting drinks, among others (these two did appear in the 1971 film, though)

– there is no climax to the movie now, either emotional or physical:
In the original film and in the book, Charlie broke the rules of not touching anything by stealing an Everlasting Gobstopper and by drinking Fizzy Lifting Drinks after sneaking off the tour with Granpa Joe. When they get to the end of the tour they ask Wonka about Charlie’s lifetime supply of chocolate and the guy FLIPS on Charlie, SCREAMING that he can’t have it because he broke the rules, and Charlie leaves in tears as Grandpa Joe let’s Wonka have what-for. Charlie, being the consumate hero, redeems himself by going back in and giving the gobstopper back to Wonka. He then turns around and gives Charlie the factory. End of film, nice little emotional climax.
The new film, however, has an entire cheezy, let’s be one happy family kind of feel. They’ve given Wonka a HISTORY. BIG mistake. According to the new script writers, Wonka had a dad, Wilbur Winka (played by the indomitable Christopher Lee, one of my favourite actors ever, but unfortunately, he looks nearer and nearer to the grave with each subsequent film. đŸ˜¦ Very sad.), who was a dentist and tortured him by not letting him eat candy. Is it just me, or did this seem somewhat stupid and overly melodramatic as there are LOADS of 100% NORMAL parents who NEVER let their kids eat candy. Talk about alienating a segment of your audience. Anyway, anyway, anyway…two of the funniest sight gags in the movie relate to this plotline (the hall of flags and the removable house), so I can’t complain that much. The entire epilogue to the movie relates to Wonka feeling like he has no father and then rejoining with his own dad, but then defying all logic and moving the Buckets into his factory and calling THEM his family. So what happened to the reunion with Wilbur? A teary hug and then you start calling Charlie Bucket dad? The ending to the book and the original film were MUCH better.

The new film, though, with it’s neatly packaged ending leaves no room for a sequel – at least not a sequel that would appear continuous (as the sequel book, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” did). Even the 1971 film was left open for a possible sequel. The Great Glass elevator flying up in to the sky and Wonka delivering that classic line, “You know what happened to the little boy who got everything he wanted, don’t you? He lived happily ever after,” really makes you smile.

On a side note, kudos to the production team and Tim Burton for getting the Great Glass Elevator SPOT ON. Despite what many people will conclude is a rip on “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s” similar scene, the Great Glass Elevator is exactly as described in the book.

Then we come to my major problem with this new version. Johnny Depp.

Call me crazy, but I prefer my Willy Wonka as a detached, insane, slightly frail and short old man as he was in the book (he was barely taller than the Oompa Loompas). I also like Wilder’s performance much better, as he really ‘got’ what Roald Dahl was writing about and didn’t need a subplot about a psychotic dentist father to add depth to his character. Wonka is ONE DIMENSIONAL…that’s the point. We don’t care about his personal history or background. And Depp’s performance REALLY hung on that part of the plot for credibility so it really didn’t fly with me.

Wilder’s Wonka, and the Wonka of the book, was MEAN. He was nice to a point, but when he screams at Charlie at the end, he scares you shitless. You can feel Charlie’s heart break when his idol morphs into a venom spewing viper. You need that quality to make the character work…or he serves little purpose beyond being a tour guide offing children whenever it suits him.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens in Burton’s new film – Depp’s Wonka is so akin to Michael Jackson that it’s more unsettling and creepy than charming and moralistic (as the book and 1971 versions are). His Chicklet teeth, pale white face, the-artist-formerly-known-as-a-symbol-now-known-as-Prince-esque high heels and overly foleyed leather gloves were also very disturbing, leaving me squirming uncomfortably in my seat a couple times.

Because of all the accoutrements that Depp and Burton added to Wonka, it makes him less interesting, less whimsical and less convincing as a character. Despite a couple funny scenes, one involving an analyst’s couch and another involving a bi-annual haircut, Depp’s Wonka is the films weakest link; really shooting the film in the proverbial foot.

The entire freakiness of the book which was somewhat lost in the first film, is really captured in Burton’s version. Unfortunately, as I said before, a lot of the heart of the original is missing as a result. Depp’s characterization aside, I recommend the film highly, but suggest you watch the 1971 version first.

Here’s a little taste…

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~ by seangstm on July 18, 2005.

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