Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Many out there have lamented the new Tim Burton version because they loved the Gene Wilder version so much.  I don't argue with the warmness those people feel towards Wilder's best work, since he was so lovable that you couldn't help but give in to him.  Unfortunately, despite Wilder's acting job, the movie was made all wrong from the beginning.  It has very little of the Roald Dahl book's tone or intent, turning what had been revolting caricatures into sugary confections of Sesame Street-level "don't do that, kids!" lesson-learning.  Additionally, the Augustus Gloop scene deeply disturbed me when I was a child.  I still have trouble breathing when I see movies with people getting stuck in tight places like that chocolate tube.  I'll never forgive Mel Stuart for that shit.

The new version, though streamlined, is as Dahl as anything that has ever been brought to film.  We knew Burton and Dahl were made for each other, but to see the association come to fruition is truly marvelous.  The good are decrepit, the evil are grotesque, the elderly are crusty, the message is misanthropic, and the morality is absolute.  Willy Wonka is more the dark, mysterious weirdo imagined by Johnny Depp than Wilder's conveniently imperfect father figure.  The snowy, rowhouse-infested London of the new film is far preferable to the MGM musical-style London of the original.  Even before we get inside the factory, it's clear that we are certainly not in a wooooooorld of pure imaginaaaaaaaaa-tiooooooooon... we're in a weird, weird place, led by a weird, weird guy.  What a wonderful thing to make a summer tentpole film with such obvious contempt for, oh, 90% of its audience.  And I love the lengths to which Wonka goes in order to NOT comfort us about the naughty kids' safety.  It may not be Burton's best film, but it's certainly on the list of his most Burtonesque.

This year has been a nice Tim Burton one-two punch though, huh?  First we get Charlie, and in a month or two we get Corpse Bride.  It's like it's 1991 all over again.

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