Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I saw C&tCF on Sunday. It was an absolutely delightful movie. Tim Burton's visuals were predictably wonderful, beautiful and organic and thoroughly believable even when what they were trying to get you to believe in was a chocolate waterfall and edible grass.

Even the songs -- something I was, frankly, hoping they would leave out entirely -- managed to be almost totally un-cringeworthy. The oompa-loompas were brilliantly done, and solving the problem of creating a whole race of dwarfs by endlessly cloning the same one was a master stroke. Importantly, they were also not orange with green hair, an absolutely bizarre deviation from the book that really annoyed me in the original movie (amongst a large number of other things I hated about that movie, such as Gene Wilder, Gene Wilder's hair, Gene Wilder's voice, and did I mention Gene Wilder?).

The flashbacks to Wonka’s childhood, and the addition of an entire sub-plot about Wonka's father, were however unwelcome. The original book has a decidedly anti-parent theme: in the book, Willy Wonka almost entirely usurps the role of grandpa Joe, who in turn had mainly usurped the role of Charlie’s father. The story is all about how doing whatever seems like a good idea at the time, without consulting anybody, often works out for the best. It’s a great message of independence and self-reliance.

This movie, however, makes it all about how bloody important your family are to you and how you should love them and cuddle them and blah blah blah Disney blah. The reason Dahl’s books were so great is precisely because they were a little bit subversive; they had lessons in them that your parents would probably rather not teach you. That was why you read them endlessly; there was the delicious tang of forbidden fruit. I resent them taking that bit of magic away.

But Burton's undoubted genius is enough to compensate.