Trumps for cinematic verve and vibrancy | Sunday Observer

Trumps for cinematic verve and vibrancy

9 January, 2022

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 2005 musical fantasy film directed by Tim Burton and written by John August, based on the 1964 British novel of the same name by Roald Dahl.

The film stars Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket, alongside David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy, and Christopher Lee. The storyline follows Charlie as he wins a contest along with four other children and is led by Wonka on a tour of his chocolate factory.

Development for a second adaptation of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ began in 1991, which resulted in Warner Bros. providing the Dahl estate with total artistic control. Prior to Burton’s involvement, directors such as Gary Ross, Rob Minkoff, Martin Scorsese, and Tom Shadyac had been involved, while actors Bill Murray, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Michael Keaton, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Adam Sandler, and many others, were either in discussion with or considered by the studio to play Wonka. Burton immediately brought regular collaborators Depp and Danny Elfman aboard.

The film is the first musical film directed by Burton and the first time since ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ that Elfman contributed to a film score using written songs and his vocals.

Filming took place from June to December 2004 at Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom. Rather than using computer-generated environments, Burton primarily used built sets and practical effects, which he claimed was inspired by the book’s emphasis on texture.

Wonka’s Chocolate Room was constructed on the 007 Stage at Pinewood, complete with a faux chocolate waterfall and river. Squirrels were trained from birth for Veruca Salt’s demise. Actor Deep Roy performed each Oompa-Loompa individually rather than one performance duplicated digitally.

The film was released to positive contemporary critical reviews, with praise directed towards the visuals, set design, musical numbers, child stars, and Burton’s direction.

Depp’s performance as Willy Wonka received a more polarized response, and the film has been graded more critically in the years since its release. The film was a box office success, grossing US$475 million and becoming the eighth-highest-grossing film worldwide in 2005.

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of 230 reviews are positive, and the average rating is 7.2/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Closer to the source material than 1971’s ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ is for people who like their Chocolate visually appealing and dark.”

According to Metacritic, which calculated a weighted average score of 72 out of 100 from 40 critic reviews, the film received “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A–” on an A+ to F scale.

A. O. Scott of ‘The New York Times’ gave a positive review, writing “in spite of relapses and imperfections, a few of them serious, Mr. Burton’s movie succeeds in doing what far too few films aimed primarily at children even know how to attempt anymore, which is to feed — even to glut — the youthful appetite for aesthetic surprise.” Scott also praised Alex McDowell’s set design, comparing the look of the factory to something out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.


Mick LaSalle of the ‘San Francisco Chronicle’ found ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ Burton’s “best work in years. If all the laughs come from Depp, who gives Willy the mannerisms of a classic Hollywood diva, the film’s heart comes from Highmore, a gifted young performer whose performance is sincere, deep and unforced in a way that’s rare in a child actor.” Peter Travers wrote in ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine that “Depp’s deliciously demented take on Willy Wonka demands to be seen. Depp goes deeper to find the bruises on Wonka’s secret heart than what Gene Wilder did.

“Depp and Burton may fly too high on the vapours of pure imagination, but it’s hard to not get hooked on something this tasty. And how about that army of Oompa-Loompas, all played by Deep Roy, in musical numbers that appear to have been choreographed by Busby Berkeley on crack.”

Johnny Depp’s performance as Willy Wonka was divisive among critics. Roger Ebert, who was pleased with the overall film, was disappointed with Depp’s performance: “What was Depp thinking of? In ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ he was famously channeling Keith Richards, which may have primed us to look for possible inspirations for this performance.”

Ann Hornaday of ‘The Washington Post’ criticized Depp’s acting: “The cumulative effect isn’t pretty. Nor is it kooky, funny, eccentric or even mildly interesting. Indeed, throughout his fey, simpering performance, Depp seems to be straining so hard for weirdness that the entire enterprise begins to feel like those excruciating occasions when your parents tried to be hip.”

Owen Gleiberman of ‘Entertainment Weekly’ praised Depp’s performance, writing “he maintains the paradox, the mystery, of Willy Wonka: a misanthrope who has little patience for children, who can’t even utter the word ‘parents’ without gagging, yet who invents for those same kids the purest and most luscious candies out of the sugar dream of his imagination.” Depp received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.

Retrospective reviews have been polarizing, with ‘Life’ magazine in 2021 describing the film as “popular but divisive.” ‘Entertainment Weekly and Variety’, respectively, ranked ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ as Tim Burton’s third and fourth-best film.

Conversely, ‘Time Out’ named the film as the worst adaptation of a Roald Dahl book, elaborating “there’s something so horribly garish about Burton’s film that you can’t help feeling a little queasy afterwards.” Guy Lodge of ‘The Guardian’ claimed that the film’s reputation was hurt by Depp’s “off-puttingly fey, chilly spin on Wonka”, even though “Burton’s film handily trumps (the 1971 adaptation) for cinematic verve and vibrancy.”