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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Reviews

Fans with fond childhood memories of the candy-colored fantasy WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971) are in for a nasty surprise. Neo-Gothic fantasist Tim Burton and writer John August (BIG FISH) play it strictly by the book for this darker but far more faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl's cautionary 1964 young-adult novel. Dahl's contempt for gluttonous, TV-addicted youth and their weak, indulgent parents virtually drips from the screen, while Burton's additions mainly consist of his own neurotic obsessions. Legendary chocolatier Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp, eccentrically inspired as usual) has hidden a golden coupon under the wrappers of five bars of Wonka chocolate, and kids all over the world are scrambling to find them. A coupon guarantees the bearer a special tour of Wonka's top-secret factory, a hulking monolith that's been closed to the general public ever since industrial espionage forced Wonka to fire all his workers, shutter his doors and recede into seclusion. With the sole exception of young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) — a gentle, towheaded lad who lives in dire poverty with his terribly decent parents (Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor) and grandparents (David Kelly, Eileen Essell, David Morris, Liz Smith) — the winners are intolerable brats. Greedy Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) is morbidly obese; Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry) is addicted to violent video games; gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) is ruthlessly competitive and rich girl Veruca Salt (Julia Winter) always gets exactly what she wants. The good times take a turn for the bizarre once the children and their guardians — Charlie brings his beloved Grandpa Joe (Kelly) — are greeted at the factory gates by Wonka himself, a pallid, purple-clad mannequin of a man with a Prince Valiant bob and unnervingly perfect teeth. Wonka can barely disguise his disdain for his guests and the factory proves a Seussian nightmare that ensnares those children who indulge their worst impulses. Parents should be warned that some of the images are quite disturbing — the sequence in which Veruca Salt is attacked by squirrels and stuffed into an incinerator chute is particularly twisted — but it's all remarkably true to Dahl's vision. Too bad Burton also chose to remain faithful to Dahl's conception of the Oompa-Loompas, originally a tribe of black pygmies "rescued" from the jungle to become Wonka's happy slaves — a depiction Dahl's U.S. publishers found unacceptable and later revised. The unfortunate decision to cast a person of color — the magic of CGI allows diminutive South Asian actor Deep Roy to play all the Oompa-Loompas — accurately embodies a strain of problematic, Victorian-era English fantasy that runs throughout Dahl's writing, but Burton does so without comment.