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July 27, 2005

Visiting the Factory

Dunno if I have too much to add... I may be (and, in fact, am) allergic to chocolate, but I'm far from allergic to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

(spoilers possisble... except, of course, most everyone reading this has seen the older movie or, I hope, read the book.)

I agree with Dorothea here and, linking to other comments and extending on her own, here. There's a fairly clear subvsersive take on class and labor relations here. Some of it is in the original, but the film certainly emphasizes these elements.

On less serious notes... the five kids around whom the story rotates are all very well done, with only one requiring a bit of updating to the 21st century (and the new Mike Teavee is annoying in ways the original can only approach thanks to the addition of video games and techno-child arrogance to the mix). And cutting back to only one parent on the tour with each child (the book allows for two) just keeps things from being far too crowded.

I was delighted to hear original lyrics (albeit significantly cut back and occasionally re-ordered) in the Oompa-Loompa songs, and thought Elfman's music was a very good match to the rather difficult material. "What?", you may ask. "Did you recognize the re-ordered lyrics while watching the film?" Well, no... though a couple did feel wrong to me, I had to check the book to know just why. And, yes, Elfman did re-arrange some lyrics here and there, as well as cutting a good bit (the original songs are quite long).

You see, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been a favorite book of mine for some time. My copy, in fact, has my name and address written in the front cover, and from the address I can tell I've owned this copy for at least thirty years. I've read it a lot. I've seen the older movie version several times, though I've never been too taken by it. Wonka is too nice. Charlie is not nice enough. I mean, Charlie and Grampa Joe end up tripping over one of Wonka's odd confectionary deathtraps themselves, and that's just wrong in so many ways!

Does this new film have problems (other than, if you're opposed to the view it presents, it's take on labor and class issues)? Sure. Dahl's book had some rather pointed and nasty things to say about children and (especially) parents, and while the message is still there, the songs (which served in the original to hammer home the point) are cut and simplified to where they're more comic commentary than polemic (OK, maybe polemic wouldn't've worked in the film... but it's pretty clearly what Dahl wrote the book for). The added sub-plot of Willie Wonka's issues with his father are entertaining (especially since Christopher Lee is cast to give creepy gravitas to the role), but I'm not sure it doesn't actually undermine the "bad parenting messes kids up" message, since while Wonka is clearly "messed up", he's also a highly successful and beloved (if completely misunderstood and cut off from the world) candy-maker. Oh, and the extended ending does another disservice, at least in my book... It doesn't leave the original direct set-up for the sequel.

And Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a book I love even more than the first. I mean, how could I not hope for (as unlikely as it is) a Tim Burton take on the Vermicious Knids?

Posted by ghoul at July 27, 2005 04:04 PM

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