Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Sugar or Canderel?

When I think of Charlie and the Chocolate factory, I think of chocolate waterfalls and an endless amount of rooms filled with delightfully wonderful treats and sweets. I think of Quentin Blake’s quirky illustrations and of Mr Willy Wonka. And then there is Charlie, the endearingly deserving protagonist of this unlikely fiction. It is a magnificent read, which is probably why I cannot stand Tim Burton’s movie. It turns the book into one of his peculiar nightmares; a transformation seen many times by those who follow his movies.

Wonka and his factory are one of my favourite Dahl creations. Reading this book for me was like a bowl of fudge before it sets: rich and indulgently imaginative; a thick pool of diction where one can swirl their finger and be transported to lala land. I can easily say, then, that watching Burton’s movie was like watching a favourite pet get run over, with multiple replays in slow-mo. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that bad but it certainly wasn’t anything like the book.

Between Freddie Highmore, who played Charlie Bucket, and David Kelly, who played Grandpa Jo, the movie was able to retain some of the unique qualities of its literary counterpart. Even their fabulous acting, however, could not save the distinction between book and movie. The movie, while appearing to be the visual equivalent of the book, was actually no more than a substitute: like Canderel and sugar, soy and beef, margarine and butter, rye and bread. Get the picture? Watching the movie made me yearn for the real thing: the book!

My major pet peeve with this movie was the way that Johnny Depp portrayed Willy Wonka. No offence to Depp, because I am a huge fan of his, but Willy Wonka was eccentric: he was NOT a camp psychotic on the verge of a mental breakdown. I mean honestly, make the distinction because quirky and psycho are two entirely different personality traits. And what the hell was going on with the mad dentist father?!

The whole process was just traumatic. The book was put through the shredder and then glued together again; the screenwriter took poetic licence to a whole new level of awful. It fell into the psychological drama genre instead of fantasy and basically everything felt wrong and twisted. Usually I would make an exception for Burton. I mean this is what he does best: he makes wonderfully weird movies. But this time he went too far! I am astounded (and confounded) that he has been able to turn a children’s book into a psychologist’s dream with all the wonka-wonky layers going on in the movie.

I’m not even going to get started on the Oompa Loompas. When they appeared just after the fat boy got sucked up the chocolate pipe, it became apparent that these mini-men where no longer the vibrant characters that I remembered; they had become Burton zombies. Just listening to them sing those, once hysterically funny, songs made me fear that this movie was actually interlaced with subliminal messaging, and that we, the viewers, were all under the influence of mind control. Freaky. Burton added too much of his own scariness which definitely detracted from the books naturally barmy undertones.

I sometimes wonder whether Tim Burton has become more of a brand, a gimmick, than an authentic director with nutty tendencies… just a thought to consider. Roald Dahl is one of my favourite childhood authors and since he is dead, I feel it is my duty to defend his work against monstrous movies such as this one.

Phew, I’m glad I got that off my chest.

In conclusion, pitting this movie against the book would be like the Grinch taking on Santa Clause: once again the book wins hands down.

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Matilda: Danny did you proud

‘Agatha. This is Magnus. Give my bumblebee her house and her money. Then get out of town. If you don’t, I will get you. I will get you like you got me. That is a promise.’ (Matilda Quote)

‘DeVito. This is Rebecca. Give my fav Dahl book a good movie with a good cast. Stay true to the book. If you don’t, I will write terrible things about you. I will get you like you got (but obviously didn’t get) this book. That is a promise.’ (Imagine the creepy chant of little children).

In case you’re starting to wonder if I’ve gone psycho on all of you- don’t worry! As you can see, I just tweaked that famous line a little. If only I had telekinesis for effect! Luckily for DeVito, who directed Matilda in 1996, the movie was everything that it should have been.

I was especially impressed with Mara Wilson, who played Matilda in the movie. That kid was a real treat. She seems to have become a part of the dusty catalogue of child-stars who fade into insignificance. But like Simon said on American Idol: “It’s like a mouse taking on an elephant.” Babies shouldn’t be trying to make it in Hollywood; it’s a tough world out there. Anyway, she made a fabulous Matilda. The end.

The cast for this movie was perfect. There was an inversion with her parents that I found quite hysterical. In the book the mom is short and fat and the dad is tall and thin. In the movie, well, DeVito plays the dad so he’s the short and tubby one and the mom is tall and thin.

Let’s not forget darling Miss Trunchbull, played by Pam Ferris (a fierce name for a fierce gal). A principal to be feared, this character has it all. Her vindictive nature has real punch and if you don’t toe the line: off to the chokey. You can’t help but love Dahl, there is always some cruel comic twist and he tells the truth, no scales, nothing. Life’s hard; he doesn’t spare you because you’re too young. But he does provide you with decent escapism to help you through! Again, the casting for this character was fan-Dan-tastic!

I must mention Miss Honey, played by Embeth Davidz. I have subsequently seen this actress in some other films (Bridget Jones’ Diary) and that soft, gentle look she has is a real act. She made a great Miss Honey, however, and so we’ll forget the other characters she has played subsequently- for now.

I’m still amazed by this movie. It was exactly like the book and that’s what made it perfect. Careful thought, and consideration went into this project and Danny DeVito deserves a standing ovation (it’s not like he won a Grammy for it). Thanks to him, my favourite childhood book was made into a really good film; leaving me with no criticisms for it.