Oompa-Loompas With Extra Oomph

Columbus Alive | July 14, 2005
Right off the bat you can tell that Tim Burton’s heart is into this film “re-imagining” more than it was into Planet of the Apes, the movie that got away from him. Ignoring the 1971 Gene Wilder movie for the Roald Dahl source novel, the director, screenwriter John August (Big Fish) and Burton’s team of designers and digital artists conjure the appropriate spirit, and a look that’s filled with treats for the eyes.

Finding Neverland’s Freddie Highmore is warm and genuine as dirt-poor Charlie Bucket, living in a lopsided shack with Mom (Helena Bonham-Carter), toothpaste factory worker Dad (Noah Taylor) and his bed-ridden grandparents, and subsisting on cabbage soup. When Charlie finds the last of the golden tickets to a private tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, he and his grandfather (David Kelly), a former Wonka employee, join four spoiled-rotten bad seeds for a day with the mysterious candy maker and his singing, dancing Oompa Loompa workforce (all hilariously played by one actor, Deep Roy).

Depp has often cited odd inspirations for his unique approach to characters, and with his hushed tones, small grins and startled expressions, he seems here to be channeling a snippier Michael Jackson on a group tour of Neverland, without the creepy sexual undertones. Burton and August add a backstory involving a stern dentist father (Christopher Lee) to explain Wonka’s chocolate fascination, but the faraway eyes and physical tics that Depp uses to signal the flashbacks are more memorable.

Inevitably, Burton’s work will be put up against the film that came before it, but unlike Planet of the Apes, this one can stand the comparison well. While not a great film, it’s smart, enjoyable and, most important, respectful of both its audience and its author’s legacy.

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Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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