As a little kid I loved the 1971 musical “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” - Even after a short bout of nightmares brought on by the Oompa Loompas I remained a huge fan. I know all the songs and quite frankly loved Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. So…when I first heard that a new film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was coming out, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical. I just knew it would ruin it for me if I saw the movie, but I decided to venture out for the 21st century version of chocolate factory fun. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The following are my quick list of what I liked with the new film and what I enjoyed more in the 1971 version. Now, I am no purest and have not read the book, so my opinions are just on the movies, not on their fidelity (or lack thereof) to the author’s original work.
What I like in Tim Burton’s Film
- This movie did quite a bit more historical development of the characters than did the 1971 version…so I really enjoyed the discovery of the Oompa Loompas and Loompaland. Also, Willy Wonka’s dad being a dentist and the “anti-Candyman” was a fun motif. Though I think it resonates too much with our “my parents made me this way” culture.
- Family is valued highly - Charlie holds his family above fame, money, comfort - this is a good message in a materialistic way. Even Willy’s reconciliation with his Father is a refreshing tale of healed relationships rather than persisting animosity. Taking care of one’s family - a good idea (1 Timothy 5:8)
- The sets and effects are marvelous - great art design in this film
- The Oompa Loompas - well done, more human looking, and very well produced musical numbers after the children fall away (this is also a negative for me)
What was better in the first movie
- The song “I got a golden ticket” - sung by Charlie and Grampa Joe after Charlie found his ticket was just fun in the first movie - the jubilance was contagious - I still find myself singing that song from time to time. For those who would like to sing, the lyrics are available online
- Oompa Loompas songs. While the songs were well choreographed and very fun, they did not have the moral strength that the first film had. The Oompa Loompas were much more morally certain of these children’s actual vices - Gluttony, Pride, TV/Distraction, Spoiled Brat…they called the sins out very clear in the first film - this movie did a bit, but is much more light hearted about it. You can read the songs and see what I mean… And who could forget the cheesy text overlays during the songs :) Thank God for the evolution of the computer so we can do cool text effects…
- Charlie’s virtue - In the second film his virtue is honesty, generosity, humility, and love for his family - which is very good. In the first film, he is presented very much the same. However, in the first film, Charlie has a moral dilemma - should he give in to give away Wonka’s secrets to Slugworth. Especially after Wonka treats him and Grandpa Joe very poorly (remember, he reneges on the contract because they stole fizzy lifting drinks - man those were sweet drinks). Instead of reacting back in spite, as Grandpa Joe suggests (Sluggworth wants a gobstopper he shall get a gobstopper), Charlie comes and returns the gobstopper in act of humble submission to a harsh Wonka. Doing the right thing, at the right time, when it would have been easy to do otherwise, is Charlies victory in the first film - a triumph even in the midst of a difficult dilemma - I found this a strength in the first script.
If you have not seen the first film, it is a fun movie told in a moral universe…but Burton’s film is pretty cool as well. I think you can see the shifting in cultural ideas over time in watching these two movies and the moral clarity in the first. Finally, for one who liked Wilder as Wonka, even Johnny Depp’s performance is pretty good.