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PCR # 277  (Vol. 6, No. 28)  This edition is for the week of July 11--17, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Two stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Deep Roy and Christopher Lee
Directed by: Tim Burton
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hours 55 mins

It sounded like a match made in movie heaven. Director Tim Burton, whose visual style has given us films like "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," "Beetlejuice," "Batman" and the magnificent "Big Fish." Team Burton with his frequent acting alter ego, Johnny Depp and turn them both loose on Roald Dahl's very dark story of chocolate maker Willy Wonka. Unfortunately, what looked so good on paper is more of a mismatch on screen.

Fans of the book and the 1971 Gene Wilder film, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" are familiar with the story. Willy Wonka, a very "odd" maker of the world's best candy, sponsors a contest. He places golden tickets in five of his candy bars and allows the children who find the tickets to visit his factory, promising one of them a special surprise. The tickets soon turn up in the hands of five very different children: Veruca Salt, a spoiled brat of a child; Agustus Gloop, a boy from Europe who never met a candy bar he didn't like; Mike Teavee, whose life revolves around the tube; Violet Beauregarde, a child in constant competition with everything around her and Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), a kind boy who lives in a rundown house with his parents and both sets of Grandparents. Each child is allowed to bring one guest and Charlie takes his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), who worked in Wonka's factory many years ago. They are greeted at the gates by Wonka (Johnny Depp) himself, and are soon taken on a tour of the factory, marveling at the chocolate rivers and candy forests. While Charlie is just happy to be included, the other children soon show their true colors and before long suffer many misfortunes. While their adventures inside the candy coated world are visually stunning, the story is rather muddled and the film goes nowhere.

I've always admired Johnny Depp as an actor who is not afraid to take chances. He has shown a knack for getting inside the characters he portrays, often going in directions that at first don't seem sane. Rumor is that the big brass at Disney were sure that his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow would sink "Pirates of the Caribbean." Of course, that film ended up making over $100 million and earned Depp his first Oscar nomination. His version of Wonka, with his powdered face and page boy haircut, is quite odd. He comes off as someone you definitely wouldn't want to leave your kids with. And, I swear, when he opens his eyes wide he looks very much like a young Mary Tyler Moore. The real star here is Highmore, who almost stole "Finding Neverland" from Depp last year. His Charlie is genuinely kind and sweet and you can't help but root for him throughout the film. Credit also an actor named Deep Roy, who plays all of the Oompa Loompas, be they candy makers or the daily psychiatrist Wonka visits. And a back story about Wonka's dentist father, played by the great Christopher Lee, gives some insight into why he acts the way he does. As with all of Burton's past films, "Charlie" is a visual masterpiece, with much credit due to production designer Alex McDowell and Academy Award winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot.

If you haven't seen the 1971 film, you may find this adventure enjoyable. If you have, you'll only find it annoying. On a scale of zero to four stars I give "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"  Two stars

This week's movie review of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2005, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.