I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Tuesday morning, and it took me this long to work out whether I liked it or not. In the end, the verdict is not in favour of the film. Which is surprising, as I only heard good things from people I know... which is... suspicious...
The movie was, without a doubt, fun and stylish and perfectly cast. I found myself laughing aloud on several occasions, and I loved the cartoonish style of the set and characters - especially Wonka - although at times I found the whole thing overwhelming.
What let down this movie for me was the mismatch between the story of the book (and the earlier film) and the new material injected into this version. While the new material certainly worked well, I think the charm and meaning of the original was lost. This film is about Wonka and Charlie, and about the worth of family; the original was about the five children and the chocolate factory, about bad children being punished in bizarre ways and good children being rewarded with amazing things.
Yet while the new film becomes less patronising and offers a more complex picture of the world, at the same time (oddly enough) it becomes more of a cartoon full of caricatures. How does it make sense to make the film more mature in content and less in delivery? Perhaps it gets the message across better to children, but it made the film horribly distracting for me.
In addition, the new themes all but obliterate the old ones. The horrible children and their self-induced fates are still there, but are no longer important. The four kids are not nearly annoying enough. Beyond their first introduction and cartoon-like appearance, they don't do a whole lot to make us dislike them. In fact, they barely talk. Where's the fun in seeing them get what's coming to them if they haven't provoked it? I still recall the song of Veruca Salt in the first movie:
"I want a party with roomfuls of laughter
Ten thousand tonnes of ice-cream
And if I don't get what I'm after
I'm going to scream!"
- Now that's a brat! :)
But back in 2005, not only does the lack of malice and greed and impatience in the kids detract from their own characters, but the less bratty they are, the less we cheer Charlie on. And isn't he the main character of the story?
Perhaps not. Perhaps the true child protagonist is Wonka. He certainly seems to fit the bill. But although this younger, crazier, socially inept version of Wonka is certainly more amusing, I miss the slightly scarred but benevolent genius who sees the world as a joke. He is the magician, the illusionist, the entertainer. This new Wonka seems like a selfish child.
Overall, while this story has the glitz and the glamour down pat, I think it has sacrificed its intelligence.