Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Johnny Depp……….Willy Wonka
Freddie Highmore……….Charlie Bucket
David Kelly……….Grandpa Joe
Helena Bonham Carter……….Mrs. Bucket
Noah Taylor……….Mr. Bucket
Missi Pyle……….Mrs. Beauregarde
James Fox……….Mr. Salt
Deep Roy……….Oompa Loompa
Christopher Lee……….Dr. Wonka
Adam Godley……….Mr. Teavee
Franziska Troegner……….Mrs. Gloop
Annasophia Robb……….Violet Beauregarde
Julia Winter……….Veruca Salt
Jordon Fry……….Mike Teavee
Philip Wiegratz……….Augustus Gloop
Every actor who has had even a sniff of success has one role or part that defines their career. Arnold will always be best known for being the Terminator, ditto with Sylvester Stallone being remembered for Rocky Balboa. William Shatner will be etched in stone as Captain James T Kirk and Jim Cavaziel for his turn as Jesus Christ. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Gene Wilder forever cemented his place as the immortal Willy Wonka. Standing out amongst the horrible buddy movies he did with Richard Prior in the 1980s (amongst others), Wilder’s portrayal of the lead character from the off-beat children’s book is the role he’s always going to be known for. So anyone trying to step into the role has some major shoes to fill as Wilder’s portrayal has become legendary after years of repeats on basic cable; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a mediocre movie crowned with legendary status due to constant replays over the years that any attempt to remake or add on to the legacy of Wonka has a lot of to live up to. And if anyone would be up for the task it’d be Tim Burton and his favorite actor, Johnny Depp.
Depp stars and Burton directs in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, the remake of Wonka. Entitled after the book in which both are based off, Depp steps into Wilder’s role as the enigmatic Willy Wonka; Depp’s strength as an actor has always been to embrace a sort of man-child persona. Both of his Oscar-nominated turns (as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and as J.M Barrie in Finding Neverland) as well as several of his other acclaimed roles (the title characters of Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands) let him explore a sort of child-like quality few actors can tap into. Wonka is the sort of character almost custom-built for an actor like Depp; Wonka is the proprietor of a chocolate factory that none have been allowed to visit. One day he devises a genius marketing strategy: he hides five golden tickets inside five randomly chosen candy bars, letting the recipient gain an all-access tour of the factory. With millions of bars being sold and devoured for this once in a lifetime tour, five rather different children wind up with golden tickets.
Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz), the poster child for Chocoholics Anonymous, finds the first ticket. Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), the most spoiled girl in England, gets the second. Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) gets the third ticket and wants to win at everything. Mike Teavee (Jordon Fry), a video game junkie gets the fourth. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), a poor kid who gets one bar of Wonka chocolate per year, wins the very last ticket and entrance into Wonka’s realm. Highmore brings a fantastic depth and quality to Charlie; Charlie is an underdog and Highmore is fantastic.
The factory itself is fantastically rendered, as well. Burton and crew really went all out in creating their own version of the factory. It is absolutely breath-taking as Wonka and company make their way through the tour; the factory is child-like wonderland that is just magnificent. Burton has created a masterpiece of architecture and imagination in his chocolate factory; as the movie progresses the level of creativity and marvel increases with each new place to visit.
While Burton doesn’t stray too far from his source material, the way he crafts the story is a very entertaining and well-paced. The Oompa Loompas (Deep Roy cloned via the power of CGI), Wonka’s assistants and entertainment crew, make for an unexpected and pleasant diversion. Much like a Bollywood production, Charlie breaks into song and dance on several occasions. It’s entertaining and catchy in an odd sort of way. What really is odd about this movie is the performance of Johnny Depp.
Long counted on to be the strength of many a movie, Depp’s performance is rather lackluster as the chocolate king. While Wonka is an eccentric, much like the routine character Depp seems to find himself playing more often than not; his version of Wonka is more creepy than creative. Talented enough to turn a two dollar steak into a prime rib, Depp is the movie’s main hindrance. Wonka is a dark character and given the sort of depth that Gene Wilder’s version couldn’t have, as Burton does make Wonka more fleshed out and less cartoon-like, Depp seems out of his league. Willy Wonka comes of as being a toned down man-child who could be mistaken for a pedophile than as a business king and candy aficionado with a bit of an eccentric streak.