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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Ben and Manda had me over tonight, and as usual we watched a movie. This time it was Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Ben went all out, buying each of us a Wonka bar, plus several other Wonka candies to share (such as Sweet Tarts and a Nerds Rope).

I’d heard bad things about the movie, so I was interested to see how it was. And to be honest…

…I really liked it! It was totally different from the Gene Wilder classic (which I also love). I don’t know if it was closer to or further from the book than the original movie, because I (gasp) haven’t read the book (or if I have I don’t remember it). Regardless, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth retelling a story if you’re going to just do it all exactly the same. If it’s just a rehash, you may as well not bother and just let people watch/read the original.

This was definitely not a rehash.

Mike Teevee changed from a kid who stared at TV shows all day to a child hacker who played violent video games. (A little cliche and annoying, but realistic. If the kid hadn’t been such a brat I would have liked him. Gamers, as always, can do their part to combat the violent videogames stereotypes by donating to Child’s Play.) Towards the end of the movie, we see what happened to all the children; Mike comes out stretched very tall and very flat.

Veruca Salt was cast into the garbage chute not after an extended “I want it now” song and dance number in a room full of geese laying golden eggs, but instead after being judged a “bad nut” by a slew of trained squirrels (who then went on to knock her father in after her). This resulted in the most boring of the conclusions; they simply walked out of the factory covered with garbage and assailed by flies.

Violet Beauregarde turned into a driven competitor, egged on by her crazy mother. This change was a little scary, because there are plenty of children with mothers who actually act like that. Violet was still a gum smacker, refusing to stop her furious chewing even when ballooning to ridiculous proportions, but she ended up permanently purple and gifted(?) with rather remarkable flexibility.

Augustus Gloop’s story was essentially the same. His ending, with his mother admonishing him not to eat his fingers, was kind of surreal (was he actually turned, at least partially, into fudge?) and funny.

The Oompa Loompas were, of course, different. I have to say that I like the old orange skinned, green haired style best, but Deep Roy is pretty impressive nonetheless, and the songs are entertaining, assuming you can understand the lyrics. (And how could you not love a man named Deep Roy?)

In this version, Charlie has a father, and Grandpa Joe gets up and dances a jig–twice–giving you the impression that he’s been freeloading the whole time. The introductory factory sequence is CGI and ridiculous–but then, you know, candy doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s candy. (Or so I understand.) One nice thing was that Charlie and Grandpa Joe did not steal Fizzy Lifting Drink, and the whole Slugworth subplot was nonexistent.

The most interesting change, though, was that of Willy Wonka’s personality and backstory. In this movie, he has an estranged father, and this lack of a relationship tempers Wonka’s reactions to everything. He’s also been alone (with his Oompa Loompas) in the factory for 15 years, and that has obviously seriously affected his social skills. I was virtually in solitary confinement for just nine months once, and let me tell you, a lack of contact with varied human beings will make you a little nutty and a lot timid. Wonka’s fumbling for what to say, his note cards, his refusal to listen to Mike Teevee (“Mutterer!”), his clumsiness, and his snide comments all fit. He hasn’t had to deal with people for fifteen years, and now all of a sudden he has to deal with ten.

The movie seemed to be coming to a close rather quickly, and that was because it went on well after the original movie ended. And the ending was totally different. I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say that things ended up getting resolved in a rather unique way.

It was a cute, weird, sweet movie. At times it was slightly surreal, especially the bright blue of Veruca’s eyes against the general pasty tones of the film and the twisted look on her face as she tried to win someone over. The kids did not leave the factory restored exactly as they had been. And Willy Wonka was not perfect.

It was not better or worse than Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was something else entirely.

And it was good.