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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I have never read any of Roald Dahl's works. Not one. I totally bypassed Dahl and went straight to Isaac Asimov. I am, however, familiar with his books, particularly that though they are written for children, they also contain adult themes.

Like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", which I'd just watched.

(Now since I have never read that book, I don't know which parts of the movie are a direct translation, and which parts are creative license, so I shall just refer to the story as "the story".)

The story is about five children who win the chance to visit Willy Wonka's amazing and secretive chocolate factory. What happens is a bunch of good yet disturbing fun, but all of it is a test to see which kid is the most deserving of Wonka's empire. And no prizes for guessing which kid wins.

The movie was a lot of fun, and it's mostly because of Johnny Depp. He overplays as Willy Wonka, the boy-adult. Which is a good thing because I think Willy Wonka is supposed to be such an impossible character to believe. If he had been portrayed realistically, he would have come across as any other Wall Street multimillionaire.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying Depp's acting... and the Oompa Loompas! Or rather, the one Oompa Loompa who was digitally replicated into thousands of clones. Their song-and-dance routines were hilarious, though it was quite difficult to grasp the lyrics (sung by maestro Danny Elfman himself).

Unfortunately, it got tiring to see this as the movie progressed. It was hilarious the first time, still funny the second. By the third time, it was getting old, and the fourth was just begging to be passed quickly (which it did). That's the thing about stories. Sequences happen in three's. If something happens only once, it can be easily missed. Twice and it's a coincidence. Three is the magic number. More than three and the novelty wears off. (That's why most movie series are trilogies. And pop songs have two verses and a bridge. And movies and plays are usually divided into three acts.) I think I can safely blame Roald Dahl for this, although it was probably better executed in the written form because you have to imagine everything, so the memory of the previous occurrences isn't as fresh in the working mind.

Also, since this is a children's movie, it was very predictable, e.g. how Charlie won his ticket, what happened to the other children, what the ending would be like. If it was any more complicated, I think most children would be lost. Adults may find it morbid and disturbing -- and fun? -- when they wonder what happens to each child each time he/she is taken into another room. But it's a kiddie movie and no one dies.

Talking about the ending, that's another part that I didn't like. It was too rushed, as if the story had overshot its limit of pages/minutes and so it needed to be resolved quickly. And it was contrived, i.e. the whole "loving family = successful man" idea was overdone so that it was beyond being saccharinely sweet.

On the other hand, it was a hoot to see Christopher Lee. Willy Wonka, your father is Count Dooku. No wonder you have a silly name, ha.

Minor gripe: besides the Oompa Loompa and the shopkeeper, everyone else is Caucasian!

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" works as an entertaining movie for the whole family to enjoy. If you're a jaded adult, it will either help you relive your childhood innocence or make you more bitter about life.

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