What was Tim Burton Thinking?
I was probably 6 or 7 years old when my mother first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to me, and in the years after she read it to me and I read it myself easily another 20 or more times. I saw the first movie a dozen times or more. Gene Wilder WAS Willie Wonka. And even though there were some changes to the story in the book, the movie was pretty faithful, and I loved it. So it was with some reservation that I went to see Tim Burton's take on the story. I had read that Burton's version was truer to the book, so I was pleased with that news, but as much as I love Johnny Depp, I didn't understand that choice for Willie Wonka - I mean after all, Willie Wonka is getting old, he is thinking about retirement - right? How was Johnny Depp gonna be able to pull that off?
Well I saw the new movie this weekend. It was a real disappointment. Don't get me wrong, it had its moments, but overall, it just wasn't very good. First of all, who ever is writing that Burton's version is closer to the book than the original has clearly never read the book. Burton changes the story in strange and unexplainable ways, including a complete re-write of the ending which is way overly sweet and sentimental and completely pointless - hey Tim, guess what, the book has a happy ending - a VERY happy ending. You felt like you needed to make it happier? All you accomplished was to make it sappy. And as I expected, Johnny Depp couldn't pull off Willie Wonka. Willie Wonka is certainly a quirky character, (just as Gene Wilder played him) but Johnny Depp plays him as unbalanced, mentally disturbed, bordering on insane. Perhaps most strangely, Depp portrays a Willie Wonka who seems to hate kids - that doesn't make any sense at all.
Perhaps the biggest surprise and disappointment was the special effects. Violet turning into a blueberry is clumsily rendered and looks terrible - it actually looks more real in the first movie! The candy meadow and chocolate river were better in the first movie as well. And the Oompa Loompas? In the new version they are all played by one man so all the Oompa Loompas look alike - they're all clones. Plus Burton tries to give them a "modern" twist forgetting that they are a stone age tribe that is rescued by Wonka, but never exposed to the outside world. The chocolate factory becomes their home and they are as sheltered there as they were in their remote tropical homeland. All in all, Burton's version of them just doesn't feel right.
Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I am being too loyal to the first movie and even to the book. I don't know. All I can say is, I was very disappointed. I love Tim Burton movies, I love Johnny Depp - I really believe he is one of the best actors of my generation, but this time out they fall short. Skip this movie, and rent the original. Better yet, read the book.