Director: Tim Burton
As beloved children’s novelist Roald Dahl wrote before the first chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in preparing readers for the plot, “there are five children,” in the tale but Charlie Bucket is “the hero.”
August Rush star Freddie Highmore who was recommended by his Finding Neverland costar Johnny Depp to director Tim Burton, plays Charlie Bucket, the sole young boy in the Bucket household who lives with his four grandparents and two parents “in a small wooden house on the edge of a great town.” Although relegated to a life of poverty and surviving on measly meals of cabbage soup, the Buckets are a kind and loving family who every year pool their money to get Charlie a Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar for his birthday.
Near the start of the film, five of Wonka’s chocolate bars which are made in the grand factory in Charlie’s community have been wrapped inside golden tickets that will gain its recipients a one-day pass to Wonka's factory. Four wicked children earn admission and after a few failed attempts, Charlie becomes one of the winners and brings his beloved Grandpa Joe along with him for the candy filled adventure.
Of course, as readers of the classic book and/or viewers of the 1971 film version Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory recall, the factory is as filled with mischief and danger as it is with edible delights but there’s no greater mystery than that of the factory owner himself, Willy Wonka who’s played by frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp in the newest adaptation.
Blending together personalities of game show and children’s television show hosts such as Mr. Rogers as inspiration, Depp crafted a unique take on the character that he described as “part Howard Hughes reclusive, part 1970’s glamorous rock star,” according to IMDb, although as many critics and viewers noted, it’s the physical appearance of feminine looking hair and teeth that had most of us creepily reminded of the once-dubbed King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
With an innovative screenplay from Go and Big Fish scribe John August, who had never seen the original film before he began writing the new film and only used Dahl’s book as his guide, we get first and foremost a more faithful version of the book. In addition, we also have the inclusion of a few new plot points such as giving Wonka a more fascinating back-story by making his father a dentist, that really make this work seem much more approachable than as August noted, the much darker original (IMDb), which frankly I never loved quite as much as most movie fans.
However, the script aside, a Tim Burton movie is uniquely Tim Burton and he’s the perfect choice for the director, including his unique and subtle cinematic fingerprints on each frame and some of the bravura sequences inside the factory along with five musical numbers (four of which came from Dahl) will leave you breathless. After you’ve gained back the wind that had been taken away from you by its sheer majesty, you'll find that at times it’s hard to decide whether or not it’s the delectable treats or the visual stimuli that make your mouth water but whatever the specific reason, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would make an ideal film to show children and one that would be even better suited to reward kids and grandkids with after they’ve experienced the novel for the first time.