To paraphrase a line about contracts from the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder, ”Don’t talk to me about remakes, Wonka. They’re strictly for suckers.” Often true, but what’s unusual about this Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — which became his biggest hit since 1989’s Batman — is that it conjures up nostalgia not for the psychedelic Wilder musical, but for other, more inspired Burton-Johnny Depp collaborations. They’ve wrapped sweetness in surreal whimsy before (Edward Scissorhands), and while the pair seem like the perfect chefs for Roald Dahl’s cinematic candy, the end result is surprisingly stale.
Tough to tell what the late Mr. Dahl, a self-proclaimed ”undeveloped adult,” would think of the movie, though his family gushes about it in several bonus features, including ”Fantastic Mr. Dahl.” The author — who referred to grown-ups as ”the enemy” — might’ve been less enthusiastic about Burton reducing the rags-to-riches tale of Charlie (Finding Neverland‘s Highmore) to bookends. Wonka’s surprise in finding Charlie as the last child remaining is understandable — we almost forget about him too.
But there’s no forgetting diminutive actor Deep Roy, who thought he’d signed on to play just one of the mischievous Oompa-Loompas. With the help of CG technology, detailed in several of the seven making-of featurettes, he ended up as all of them. Plus, he’s saddled with hosting the DVD: You can make him do the Oompa-Loompa dance ad nauseam or feed him vile candy concoctions from ”The Inventing Machine” that force smoke out of his ears. Roy might want to examine his contract with Burton, but as any informed Wonkite knows, they’re strictly for suckers.