A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

May 4, 2011

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I’m wondering tonight if it was a mistake to watch the two chocolate factory movies back to back. You can’t help comparing and contrasting the two films. I enjoy them both, and they’re both odd movies with a strange sort of charm to them, but encouraging comparisons between them doesn’t necessarily work in favour of either movie. This movie, for example, has far cooler Oompa Loompas, but it also has an unnecessary extra character wedged into the movie that alters the tone of the whole story. This movie has access to the more advanced special effects of today and has the kind of stellar production design you’d expect from a Tim Burton movie, but it also lacks some of the charm of the first movie.

The two most distinctive features of this adaptation of the book are the very strange performance of Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas, all of whom are played by ubiquitous little person actor Deep Roy, who is made even more little here through all kinds of digital trickery. That and the addition of a whole sub-plot involving Wonka’s father the dentist.

This is probably the strangest performance of Johnny Depp’s career, which is really saying something given some of the roles under his belt. Depp’s Wonka is a fay, nervous, peculiar individual. It feels to me like a performance that comes almost entirely from the false teeth. Sort of like how John Turturro created his character in O Brother Where Art Thou from his mouth full of jagged and discolored teeth, Johnny Depp here is all perfect white teeth and a strange haircut. His accent reminds me of the fake American accent used by Graham Chapman as the American tourist wife in The Meaning of Life. Very affected, clipped and awkward. It’s the nervous and almost terrified aspect of the character that really makes him completely different from Gene Wilder in yesterday’s movie. Wilder as Wonka was completely self assured, never at a loss, in command at all times. Depp as Wonka is a lost little boy in a man’s body. I very much prefer the Wilder interpretation.

On the other hand I much prefer the Oompa Loompas in this movie. Rather than hiring a number of little people to play the Loompas for this film Burton chose to hire just one and film him over and over again, compositing them all together digitally into a full chorus of sinister little people. All played by Deep Roy. Now I know this caused some consternation in the fairly insular world of little world actors, because this was potentially work for a very large cast and all went to a single over worked individual, but the end product is simply fantastic to look at. Deep Roy has such a distinctive face, and the complete seriousness with which he portrays all the Oompas is fantastic. The world of top flight super-star little person actors is fairly exclusive. I can think of only a small handful who seem to get virtually every role. Vern Troyer, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis Kenny Baker and Deep Roy. So it shouldn’t be surprising that after watching this movie I felt like I saw Deep Roy in everything. This was the break out role, however, that really made me notice his work.

This movie is filled with familar faces and fantastic performances. Freddie Highmore, who we just watched recently in Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp, is charming and fantastic as Charlie Bucket. As Grandpa Joe we have the distinctive David Kelly who was so much fun in Waking Ned Devine. My favorite of the other children is Philip Wiegratz as Augustus Gloop. He’s so cheerful in his gluttony I kind of regretted that the movie didn’t have more of him in it.

I did not particularly enjoy the plot with Wonka’s father. I can see what it was trying to do – create a thread about how much we need our family – but it was clumsily done and I didn’t like the way it make Wonka from a mad genius into a scared and lost little boy. I feel like a traitor saying this since the role of Wonka Sr. went to Christopher Lee, the venerable Hammer Horror mainstay and owner of one of the most distinctive voices in the world, but as much as I liked seeing him in the movie I think his part made it a weaker film.

Of course since this being a Tim Burton movie it has to have a Danny Elfman score. I did appreciate that the lyrics for the songs came directly from the original book by Roald Dahl, and I liked how Elfman himself provided the singing voices for all the Oompa Loompas in the same way that Deep Roy provided all the Oompa Loompa performances. The score itself though is unspectacular. Elfman has a certain sound to him, and this score is instantly recognizable as his work. It didn’t really movie me though, which is sad.

I have to say that if I were forced to pick between the two films my preference would be for the 1971 version. I like Wilder’s Wonka better and that version just has more charm to it. This movie is more technically impressive, but it just feels like it is missing something. I would really miss Deep Roy though.

June 4, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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