A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One More Very Late Movie Review

Also saw Tim Burton's version of Willie Wonka over the weekend. Overall, quite good-- faithful to the original story and movie without being a boring rehash. The backstory on Willie's childhood was a little strained, but once again Christopher Lee is there to rescue what otherwise might have been patently ridiculous. Christopher Lee: Saruman, Count Dooku and Willie Wonka's dentist father-- all played with that stenorous Christopher Lee voice and presence, yet all different and individual. Nice work!

Two things that made the movie less enjoyable than it should have been. #1, and this is the biggie, Johnny Depp's Willie Wonka is way too much like Michael Jackson at his freaky child molesting worst-- except of course that Wonka doesn't actually like kids. But the weird facial ticks and coloration, odd clothing, high-pitched voice... man, there were times I wondered if it was Michael Jackson but then I checked the nose and it wasn't fake. That said, Depp is excellent in the role-- it's a pity he seems a bit of a nutjob, because the man is one of the most talented actors of his generation.

#2 is Danny Elfman's soundtrack. When Elfman first starting scoring some of Burton's early films-- like Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Batman-- his over fondness for driving wind instrumentation was a fresh breath from the John Williams school of over-stringed orchestration. Now, many years and films later, it is getting tired and annoying. I think Danny needs to go back to his punk-pop/Oingo Boingo roots and rediscover some alternatives to his trademark sound.

Other than that, the acting was very good, the changes/updates made to the original are all pretty good (though the backstory on the Ooompahloompahs is a bit forced). And I just like Tim Burton's style-- not all of his films are great, but unlike his musical sidekick, Elfman, I haven't grown tired of his amazing vision as a director.

A much more enthusiastic thumbs up for this one.

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Comments:
Overall I agree with you, except for the bit about remaining truthful to the original. True, in most cases they did, but much of the message of the movie was lost by Burton's failure to include the moral decision that Charley faces (in the original) over the Everlasting Gobstopper.
 
Hmm... good point. I did notice that the parental responsibility for the kids being brats also got a bit buried. Mostly because I had trouble understanding what the heck the Oommpahloompahs were singing. The synchronized swimming was humorous and quite visually affecting, but the main point of those songs is-- why the heck are the parents allowing their kids to be gluttons/brats/smart alecky talk backers. Which is largely lost in the new version.

That said, Burton does toss in an alternative moral decision-- wealth, fame and power, but you have to give up your family. And the early possibility of selling the golden ticket for much needed cash was also nice. So, overall, the message is a bit more muddled than in the original, but I think it's still there.
 
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