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.