Spoilage ahead fair readers.
First off, I have to say when I heard that Warner Bros. decided to remake “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” I was a little less than thrilled. I never quite found the magic of the original film, even when I was a kid. I like the original Dahl book, but I think that is because my imagination of his words never annoyed me as much as the images in Mel Stuart’s film. Nor did the songs in print cause me to want to slam my head against concrete. Nor did I get an epileptic seizure during the boat ride sequence in the book like I did watching the film. It might even be safe to say that I pretty much hate everything about that movie, with exception to Gene Wilder of course.
Then with news of Tim Burton directing the film, and being the fan of Burton that I am, I now had something to be excited about. According to IMDB, WB had more than a few people they were considering for the role of Wonka. Steve Martin, Michael Keaton, Nic Cage and Robin Williams were all on the list. Marilyn Manson wanted to play the part desperately, but Warner Bros. wouldn’t even give that idea a minute of thought. They even thought about Christopher Walken. How awesome would that have been? They had themselves a pretty good list of people but how could any list of actors considered for Wonka not include Crispin Glover? He would have been the best new age Wonka ever. He probably would’ve received an Academy Award nomination.
Burton finally settled on his old comrade, Johnny Depp, a man who has garnered two nominations himself since the last time they worked together. Sounded like a good combination at the time, although, I wasn’t as enthused as a lot of other people were.
At the time, I actually thought that this had the potential of being a great idea. The last time Burton and Depp teamed up was in 1999 with the mediocre Sleepy Hollow and while that film looked great, the writing ended up killing the entire experience. How wrong I was for thinking this idea good, even though I only thought it for a second.
Stills from the film started popping up all over the place. Then a hideous trailer with an equally hideous song started popping up in theaters. Visually, it looked like any other Tim Burton movie but something was afoot about the way Depp looked. He looked sickly pale, as if he had the same surgeons as Michael Jackson, and even had the voice of a soft spoken pedophile. Journalists all over the place began to throw out stories about the uncanny resemblance. It was obvious; Burton and Warner Bros. may have made a mistake in their casting choice.
I had to change my state of mind though; I shouldn’t judge movies by their trailers. No one should. If we did, we might be under the impression that War of the Worlds was a good movie. So I put all my reservations on the back burner and patiently awaited its release.
Watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t nearly as bad of a time I imagined it was going to be, nor was it that great. Hate to say it but I actually enjoyed everything about it better than the original version… everything except for Johnny Depp. Gene Wilder was far superior as Wonka; it’s just a shame that his film wasn’t this funny, and oftentimes, this dark.
Pirates of the Caribbean illustrated just how perfect Johnny Depp is at mimicry. Compare his role in that film to the mannerisms of Keith Richards or Iggy Pop. He has even publicly stated that Richards was his source of inspiration for that role. Since he has made the public aware of his love for aging rock stars, should his depiction of a Jacksonesque Wonka surprise us? Not really, although it would have been better if he used another person for motivation.
Every time Depp was on screen, I heard “Thriller” in the back of my mind. Not only that but the actual story itself paralleled Michael in so many ways. Roger Ebert found this coincidental too; he writes in his review of this film, “Consider the reclusive lifestyle, the fetishes of wardrobe and accessories, the elaborate playground built by an adult for the child inside.” It was as if Roald Dahl was a time traveler who visited the future and grew fascinated by Michael Jackson and decided to write a satire about him in his time without anyone really knowing the source. The only problem with that idea was that since he was the only one traveling to the future, no one else in the world would get the joke. Well, we get it now.
In this film, 5 lucky kids get invited to Wonka’s magical Chocolate Factory: two little boys, a fat kid and two annoying girls. Each time a girl asks Wonka a question, he barely gives them a second of attention. The same goes for the fat kid and the television kid. Wonka is only interested in one little boy here: Charlie, the sweet and well-mannered kid without a pot to piss in. This would be the kid to tickle Michael Jackson’s fancy, should any of those molestation allegations be true. At the end of the film, he even asks Charlie to live in his factory without bringing his family along. The film justifies this type of action from the character with perfect reasoning but it still brings wonder to the viewer’s imagination.
If Burton didn’t have a parody of Michael Jackson in mind, what was the point of all Depp’s odd characteristics? We may never know but one thing is for sure, Johnny Depp needs to stop channeling musicians into his performances. It was entertaining the first time around, even got him a Nomination out of the deal, but enough is enough. Do you really think the public wants to be reminded of Michael Jackson for an hour and forty-seven minutes? No, we sure don’t. If Crispin Glover had been picked for the role, this same mistake wouldn’t have been made.
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