If there is one director worthy of retelling Roald Dahl’s sugar coated tale with a dark centre, then it is Tim Burton. This marriage of author and director is a perfect match as is the casting of Johnny Depp as the wildly eccentric Willy Wonka. Even though the 1971 classic ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ has successfully entertained a number of generations of kids, this version is closer to the text of the original story.Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland) stars as the honest and well-mannered Charlie Bucket who lives with his parents and both sets of grandparents in a house that is falling down around them. One day the world wakes up to the news that chocolate maker extraordinaire Willy Wonka has concealed gold tickets within 5 of his chocolate bars with the prize being a full day tour of his mysterious chocolate factory. Against all odds Charlie is one of the lucky winners as are Augustus Gloop, a glutinous boy from Germany; Veruca Salt, a spoilt brat from a rich family; Violet Beauragade, an obsessive over-achiever as well as the television and violent video game obsessed Mike Teavee.
No one has had access to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory since he closed the door many years ago after spys amongst his workers sold recipes for his famous treats and it has remained a mystery as to how he has continued to produce huge amounts of candy. When the children and their guardians meet Mr Wonka they discover a pale, wide-eyed, at times irritable, emotionally detached and very strange man in a top hat. It is announced that, aside from the tour of the factory, one of the five children will receive a special prize at the end of the tour. Even though it is not revealed as to what the prize actually is, it still puts all of the children, except Charlie, into a fiercely competitive competition that will bring out the worst in them as well as bringing about their own reprisal for being so greedy.
Dahl’s story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has allowed Tim Burton’s creativity and visual flair to go into overdrive. The set design and costuming are like a child’s dream has come to life on the screen which is embellished with a whimsical score by Danny Elfman (The Simpsons, Big Fish). Johnny Depp has become a master at playing eccentric oddballs and does another fantastic job here – delivering a much more bizarre and menacing Wonka than Gene Wilder did in the previous film version. Freddie Highmore plays Charlie brilliantly and once again the strength of his performance is impressive for such a young actor. David Kelly (Waking Ned Divine) is wonderful as Grandpa Joe and the casting of Deep Roy as all of the Oompa Loompas is hilarious, especially when he is hamming it up in the musical sequences. John August’s screenplay is superbly written and allows for much deeper insight into Wonka’s past than the 1971 version.If your kids like their movies with a dash of the dark side then Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be just the ticket. It is also comes highly recommended for all of the ‘big kids’ out there too.