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8.22.2005

WILLY WONKA

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by John August


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Directed by Mel Stuart
Written by Roald Dahl




Charlie Bucket's impossible, a false hope in Roald Dahl's working class chestnut about the perfect kid you can never have and the monstrous kids you most likely will and their sadistic, therefore delicious, comeuppance. That this impossible kid is also almost impossibly poor and the monstrous kids impossibly privileged makes obvious the schism that feeds the fairy tale and which side it favors. Song is the one radical liberty, some say mistake, Stuart takes. And without the armor of sentimental value, Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley's showtune mawk is bound to dig fatal cavities in your forebrain. Admittedly, my resistance has been weakened. Treacly pop ick notwithstanding, you can't deny the druggy vibe, the sinister underbubble, and you can't deny Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka like the boogeyman he is: crankily, crazily, creepily. That is, perfectly. * * *


Hand in glove in much the same way his masterpieces Ed Wood and Mars Attacks! weren't, the Burton upgrade is satisfying on one hand for being so inevitable, this is like comfort food for him,but on the other signals a worrying conservatism and predictability as far as the choices he's been making is concerned- - - Ridley Scott has more capacity to go on limbs and throw you for a loop, if not making good shit come from it. All Burton does here to crank up levels is to foreground the freakish that's always been there,ratcheting it a weird notch or two. But it has pull enough to assauge heightened expectations and trump second guesses. Multimillion dollar spit and polish may be all that varies the look but the Oompa Loompas have become set pieces unto themselves. Charlie's still impossible but the kids have gotten more monstrous, as it is in the modern world, and the brat pack ass-whup even more gleefully epic, as it should. Wonka is the one radical liberty, some say mistake, Burton takes, giving him a caramel backstory that dilutes his ambiguity just when it had attained , in Johnny Depp's able clutches, the satanic glimmer the part probably doesn't need but ultimately deserves. * * *