out of Five
Running time: 115
A return to form for Tim Burton, this is a delight from start to finish – it’s a hugely enjoyable, brightly coloured children’s fantasy, with a terrific central performance from Johnny Depp. In a word, delicious.
It’s safe to say that Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the most eagerly-awaited films of the year. It’s generally accepted that the director’s collaborations with Johnny Depp are his best films and this delightful confection is thankfully no exception – it’s easily Burton’s best film since Ed Wood and a surefire contender for one of the best films of 2005.
Young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore, from Finding Neverland) lives with his loving parents (Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor) and grandparents, in a ramshackle house in the shadow of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
After years of secrecy, the mysterious Wonka (Johnny Depp) announces that he will open the gates of his famous factory to five lucky children, who will be randomly selected by finding a Golden Ticket inside one of Wonka’s chocolate bars. The children include: chocoholic Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), overachieving Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb), spoiled brat Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), videogame addict Mike Teevee (Jordan Fry) and, to his wide-eyed amazement, Charlie himself. But what he finds in the factory exceeds even his wildest dreams…
The actors are wonderful. Freddie Highmore is perfect as Charlie - there's an impressive naturalism and maturity to his performance, which contrasts well with the madness around him. David Kelly is good value as Grandpa Joe and the child actors are all superb. There’s also strong support from the likes of James Fox and Missi Pyle as the childrens’ parents and an astonishing range of performances from digitally-reduced actor Deep Roy, who plays all the Oompa-Loompas and recorded separate movements for each one.
However, the film unquestionably belongs to Johnny Depp. He makes the most out of every line and gets several laughs just from the looks he shoots people. It's an extremely mannered performance but Burton and Depp make it clear that Wonka himself (who hasn't been seen in public for 15 years) is nervously playing a part for his audience - to the point where he frequently reads his own lines off cue cards.
There are some wonderful throwaway lines ("You're really weird" to James Fox being a particular highlight), some literal throwaway gags (tossing Fox's card over his shoulder) and a great running gag where he keeps accusing Mike Teavee of mumbling.
The sets (many of them actually built rather than CGI-ed) are terrific and wonderfully colourful, in stark contrast to the snowy landscapes that characterise Charlie's "real" world. The factory sets are breathtakingly beautiful, but there's wonderful colour and detail in the other sets too, e.g. the toothpaste factory that Charlie's dad works in and the Wonka Shop from Grandpa Joe's flashback.
Danny Elfman’s score is extremely good and the songs are all very imaginatively staged, although the lyrics are occasionally difficult to hear. On a similar note, purists may complain about the Americanisation of the film, as well as the amusing flashbacks Burton gives Wonka (involving a perfectly cast Christopher Lee as Wonka’s strict dentist father – presumably the nearest Burton could come to casting Vincent Price).
The film is frequently hilarious – it’s much funnier than the previous filmed version with Gene Wilder as Wonka. It’s also brimming with invention – there are tonnes of fabulous sight gags and Burton makes terrific use of both Kubrick's 2001 and Hitchcock's Psycho during the Mike Teavee sequence.
To sum up, this is utterly fantastic in every sense of the word. The sets and music are great, it’s perfectly cast and it’s thoroughly entertaining. If Burton doesn't get a Best Director Oscar nomination out of this there is officially no justice. Unmissable.