The Unremitting Weirdness
I’m not sure if this movie has a reputation for being commercial or not, but it’s one of the most bizarre children’s flicks to hit screens in the past decade. Dahl’s story is warped to begin with, but Burton seems eager to take that bent texture and dial it up to full-blown zaniness.
Just look at Depp’s performance. I can’t really pick a favorite between him and Wilder overall, but I know who wins for sheer ballsiness. Depp’s Wonka is a creepy, alienating figure, a man who’s clearly not gotten out much in his life and hasn’t come out the better for it. There’s hardly a safe moment in his whole routine, really.
The film’s humor, too, is a weird mix. It’s got a childish element to it (“Back off, you little freaks!”) but occasionally finds itself crossed with surrealism (Dr. Wonka’s very literal cut-and-run) or full-fledged metafiction:
“Do you have these flashbacks often?”
Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t safe, reasonable, familiar, or cool. In many ways, it’s the iconic director at his most out there.
All this wackiness — aside from making the movie interesting on a pure production level — really pays off. During the scene in the glass elevator (one of the movie’s more inspired bits), Mike Teavee asks a very legitimate question:
“Why is everything here completely pointless?”
To which Charlie responds:
“Candy doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s candy.”
Maybe it’s just me, but that simple truth alone puts the whole enterprise above its predecessor.
Now, the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t ENTIRELY better than that other one. I think I’d prefer most of the other child performances in the 70’s version, for instance. But Burton’s take more than justifies its existence, and proves to be one of the stronger remakes of recent years. It deserves its place next to Wilder’s nostalgic favorite.