Director: Tim Burton
Synopsis: When famed, eccentric, and recently-reclusive confectioner Willy Wonka suddenly announces a contest for one of five lucky children to receive a special prize after a group tour of his mysterious factory once they each locate a rare Golden Ticket in one of his popular chocolate bars, young Charlie Bucket looks forward to a way of escape for him and his family from their life of poverty. After finding the fifth Golden Ticket just before the contest is set to end, Charlie accompanies four other children on a tour of the factory and finds it to be more spectacular than he ever imagined. Once the remaining children have been eliminated from the contest due to their own misbehavior, Charlie stands alone as the winner – but then learns that his acceptance of Wonka’s special prize would require that he abandon his family forever.
Review: Tim Burton was an interesting choice to direct Charlie. Burton is known by audiences for his strangeness – both in style and in content – and a bit of grotesqueness in his work. Perhaps his most well-known other movie aimed a family audience, The Nightmare Before Christmas, was an intentional mixture of holiday cheer and horrific chills. The story for this film, however, was literally as sweet as could be, and Burton’s typical grisly weirdness is not needed. His style is still evident – unconventional zooming-in on characters, odd angles, and snappy action – albeit on a toned-down level due to the absence of violence. Perhaps the strangest aspect of this Burton film was the choice of Burton direct it.
Direction notwithstanding, the rest of the film was a delight. Johnny Depp’s performance was memorable and endearing, even if a bit – thank you, Burton – weird. The young Freddie Highmore was likewise stellar in the role of Charlie. The focus on these two protagonists was better than expected, with Willy even receiving some unexpected character development. Concerning the film’s plot, I also appreciated was the decision to take time to show the aftermath of the factory tour – what happened to the factory, Willy, and Charlie, with each getting a (spoiler alert!) happy ending. The ending felt more complete and satisfying than that of Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), the story’s previous film incarnation. On the other hand, this decision involved taking time away from the tour itself, which ended up feeling slightly rushed in comparison to its portrayal in Willy Wonka.