Do you want to know what movie I couldn’t stand when I initially saw it in theaters? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know, the one by Tim Burton. When I first saw it, I got the same nauseated feeling I got when I saw Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes remake. It just left me thinking that he should probably stay far, far away from older properties, because he is not doing anything to improve upon them. If anything, he was just ruining them.
But then, just recently, the movie popped up on Netflix Kids, and my children wanted to watch it (they actually ran into the basement and told me that there was a new Michael Jackson movie on Netflix, only for me to find Johnny Depp’s grinning expression on the screen). I thought, what the hell, I’ll watch it again, and guess what? I really liked it this time! In fact, I think I might even love it. And I have five reasons why. Care to take a trip down the sugar hill lane with me?
The Songs Are All Very Diverse
It’s impossible not to compare Burton’s movie with the 1971 original. And while there are definitely aspects that I prefer from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, one thing that I think I much prefer in the remake is the songs. The original had the Oompa-Loompas pretty much singing with the same exact OoMpA lOoMpA melody for every song, which is fine, but by the time we get to Mike Teavee’s incident, it got a little tiresome.
Tim Burton’s movie doesn’t have that problem. In fact, each song is sonically different, from the flower power folky tune with Veruca Salt, to the heavy metal number with Mike Teavee. Deep Roy portrays all of the Oompa-Loompas, and his expressions are hilarious, especially for the heavy metal song. I found myself getting really interested to see each musical number throughout the film, and I appreciated the diversity for each one. It really made each musical number genuinely stand out, and I found myself re-watching them even outside of the movie itself.
The Visuals Are Actually Very Interesting In An Older Tim Burton Sort Of Way
When I initially saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory back in 2005, I thought it had that really forced-upon Burton look that we would eventually see in full force with movies like Alice in Wonderland and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. In fact, in a lot of ways, I thought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the beginning of the end for the Tim Burton style, and that the last truly great film of his was Big Fish.
I’m not saying that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a masterpiece or anything like that, but I will say that visually, it is just as interesting and captivating as some of his older films, like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. Instead of being really dark, it’s extremely bright like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is a surprisingly dark film, tonally anyway, and it’s a nice contrast to see this story visually turned up a notch and really colorful in a cheerful way, which bucks the dark trend that Tim Burton’s-style usually exhibits. I might have to actually re-watch Dark Shadows and Dumbo now to see if I appreciate them more, visually at least, after re-watching this picture.
Johnny Depp Is Actually A Supremely Interesting Version Of Willy Wonka
Look, there can only be one Gene Wilder, and Johnny Depp wasn’t going to top that performance. So, Tim Burton took an entirely different approach and made his version of Wonka supremely uncomfortable with daddy issues. And, he gave him a Prince Valiant haircut to boot. At first, I was immensely repulsed by this performance because it was just so different from Wilder’s, but now that I’ve watched it again and many years apart, I actually really enjoy it.
My children said that Willy Wonka was really nice, and that the kids were bad. I love Depp’s subtlety, and had to point out that his version of Wonka was not nice at all. In fact, he derived pleasure from these children getting their comeuppance. His version is a Wonka that is an absolute misanthrope who doesn’t really know how to relate to others, and he doesn’t even want to, either. His mind is too centered on his chocolate empire.
It’s not an overblown performance where Depp was vamping like Captain Jack Sparrow. Instead, you kind of want to put your ear to his noggin just to listen to how his brain ticks. I’ve watched the film three times now since it appeared on Netflix, and each time, I find something new with his performance. It’s really good. Watch it again.
The Plot Is Closer To The Book Than The Original Movie
The plot of the original movie is pretty close to the book, but one thing that always bothered me about that film is the scene where Charlie and his grandfather have to burp to avoid getting cut to ribbons by the ceiling fan. First of all, that scene is terrifying if you’re a child, and secondly, I really don’t like how it makes Charlie look like a bad boy for simply indulging in something that looked interesting to him. Willy Wonka himself is even upset with Charlie by the end, and he’s almost going to refuse him his prize until Charlie reveals that he still has the Everlasting Gobstopper.
I hate all of that, and none of it is in the book. But, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is much closer to the original story, with Charlie being a very good boy (Also, did you know that Charlie was originally supposed to be black in the book?), who doesn’t even want the factory if his family can’t come along. Now, granted, this is a detour from the original story (and I’ll get to that), but still. Burton’s version is much closer than the 1971 original.
The Backstory Stuff With Christopher Lee Is Really Fun
Okay, finally, can I just say that I LOVE Christopher Lee as Willy Wonka’s father? Now, this is nowhere in the story at all, and giving Wonka daddy issues is a stark departure from the novel, but I really love how it all ties into Charlie’s own love for his family. My favorite scene in the movie is actually when Willy Wonka is a child and his dentist father throws Willy’s Halloween candy into the fire, and it turns an eerie blue while Wonka, whose mouth is stuck in a perpetual smile because of his braces, just watches it burn.
Christopher Lee is my favorite character in the entire movie, and I love this dynamic of the story. Even though the original film is called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we don’t really get to know much about Wonka in that film at all. In this movie, we definitely do, and we learn so much more about him through his hilarious interactions with his father.
That’s why I love this film. Now, I know there’s going to be yet another Wonka, starring Timothee Chalamet, and well, I guess I’m willing to give that film a shot. But if I end up disliking it, I’ll probably just have to wait a few years. Because who knows? Perhaps it will end up growing on me like this excellent Tim Burton movie eventually did.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.