Monday, July 18, 2005

Candy Everybody Wants

(A bit of re-tread here, but I tried to put up new ideas - some SPOILERS and the like here)

What a shock! Hollywood manages to put out a movie that people actually want to see, including such rare treats as imagination and invention, and box offices have a second winning week in a row! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the culprit, of course. It appeals to children, and Tim Burton appeals to many adults, so it's not too surprising that this one is a success. And the main reason is that it's different enough from the original while keeping the already great story that makes people genuinely curious. What is a bit surprising is that, overall, I liked the film. I didn't expect to. Most retreads are bland, just trying to steal money with a name everyone knows. Kind of like 90% of the films made this year.

Of course I spent most of the movie comparing it to the original. I wonder how much more faithful this new version is to the book. A part of me likes having more of the background of Wonka, even if he becomes a bit creepy like Michael Jackson. Depp is an amazing actor, and it's almost worth seeing this just for him. There are a lot of fun scenes from the mind of Wonka, such as a cow being whipped to make whipped cream - a nice chuckle there, done with a Pee-Wee Herman type grin from Depp (Wilder would have passed it off as completely normal and logical, which is so much of the appeal of the first movie). It's a colder treatment of the character in a darker chocolate factory, with the very mechanized process to creating chocolate as seen in the introduction shows. The songs are a big difference, and there is no overlap in songs between the first and second film. Most of them are fun, but I do think they were trying too hard at times, especially when they broke out the KISS type hair band stuff. Ughh. The first film's music was much quieter and less mean, not devious in their treatment of the naughty kids, just matter of fact - they deserved it...

I do have my criticisms, and they aren't minor. The CGI of the Veruka Salt turning into a blueberry reminded me how much I dislike CGI, and it was used often in the film. Like Lucas' remake of the original Star Wars, it was just better when they did it without computers, using puppets and makeup and anything at hand to make it work. 2001 is another great example. It's amazing how much more realistic those effects look than anything that has been done on a computer. Much of what I was impressed by in the new movie, such as the room where everything is edible, was created by hand, not by bits.

Character development in the two films are different. In the first, Charlie and his grandfather became people you truly cared about, as you saw how honest and decent they truly were. Even when they misbehaved and ended up floating in the first movie, it was good-natured, unlike the other four children. In this, I rarely connected with either character other than their being poor, and they seemed largely ignored during the scenes of the other four's downfall. Funny that I seem to have understood those four characters much better in this film than the last... but, of course, I don't like those characters, so I don't want to know them better.

Basically, a sweet movie without a lot of substance, like candy. Often visually appealing, as Tim Burton so often is, but with very little heart. The 1971 film will continue to be loved because it truly connects with the viewer, even if a couple of the songs are annoying. The scene where the group first enters the wonderful edible room with the chocolate river and Wilder sings the great "Pure Imagination" is one of my favorite moments in all of film. The wonder of it! This newer version fails to have any moments that approach.


At 7/18/2005 07:10:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm probably going to wait till DVD to see this, but yours and Chris's review have got me very curious; I don't know maybe I'll sneak out one night and catch it.

And Mike I thought you would appreciate this. I finally bought "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and watched it again; it was the first time I had seen it in about 8 or 9 years. What a fucking incredible film. I love "Annie Hall," "Zelig," "Take the Money and Run," and the like, but this is truly Woody Allen's masterpiece, and might be the best film ever to have such a great balance of dark, dark drama and very nice light humor. While a couple of years ago, Allen did get back to his highs to a point with the underrated "Sweet and Lowdown," he sure as hell can't make a film like he used to. I hope the rumors I hear about "Match Point" are true, I would love to see Allen go on another streak like he did in the mid-seventies through the late eighties.


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