Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie, Violet, Veruca, Mike and Augustus get another big-screen chance to win a chocolate factory, 40-plus years after Roald Dahl created them for his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Of course, there's no surprise in who comes up with the big prize in the end. It's the kid with the soul. The kid with the heart. The kid with the four bedridden grandparents. It's Charlie Bucket, the kid who only has enough money to buy one candy bar a year—on his birthday. Grandpa George tells him there's no way he will ever find that fifth golden ticket, but Charlie and Grandpa Joe are irrepressible. And irrepressibility, at least in Roald Dahl stories, is always rewarded.
So Charlie and his bratty, impertinent, greedy, stuck-up comrades waltz into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. And in so doing their story lives on for a new generation of young fans who hopefully, after watching, will become slightly less bratty, less impertinent, less greedy and less stuck-up than they were before.
Each child who enters Wonka's secret world represents either good or bad character traits. Four are bad. One is good. All serve a positive purpose.
Violet Beauregarde: A gum-smacking, karate-kicking, win-at-all-costs kind of girl, Violet shows what can go wrong when "girl-power" isn't tempered with self-control, empathy and old-fashioned manners.
Veruca Salt: She's haughty, belligerent, demanding, selfish and greedy. Anything she sees that she fancies, she demands that her parents get for her. She's not above "cheating" to win her passport to Wonka's factory, and she's eventually brought to ruin when she ignores the warnings of her father and blindly pursues the latest-greatest "thing"—in this case, a squirrel.
Mike Teavee: Mike's a know-it-all "mumbler" who's obsessed with violent video games. He's disrespectful, disobedient and headstrong. The point that's made after he shrinks into a miniature boy? Video games and television keep you small. Kids need to be stretched outside their comfort zones to become balanced grown-ups.
Augustus Gloop: With a last name like Gloop, is it any wonder that Augustus is a slob, a boob and a single-minded glutton? Sucked into a swirling vortex of chocolate while stuffing his face, we're all reminded that temperance is a virtue to be sought after with a vengeance.
Charlie Bucket: He shares what little he has with others. He loves his family. He's content. Yet he's full of dreams and creativity. He's the kid every mom wants and every dad should strive to mold. To demonstrate the boy's generous spirit, he's seen sharing his one birthday chocolate bar with his whole family.
All of the children are shown to have become who they are because of the influence and guidance of their parents. So the lessons here are not just for the wee ones, they're for the rest of us, too. The Oompa-Loompas nail it when they sing after Veruca falls down the rubbish chute: "Who turned her into such a brat?/Who are the culprits?/Who did that?/The guilty ones (and this is sad), dear old Mom and loving Dad." When Grandpa Joe sees Veruca and her father on TV, he says, "That man spoils his daughter, and no good ever comes from spoiling a child."
[Spoiler Warning] A new Chocolate Factory ending goes out of its way to reinforce the value of family. Charlie is at first offered the factory only if he goes alone with Wonka, leaving behind his parents and grandparents. Charlie never hesitates, flatly refusing. He's much too bonded to his parents and grandparents to contemplate deserting them, even though fame, fortune and mountains of chocolate are his reward if he chooses to do so. Convicted by the example of his new young friend, Wonka proceeds to reconcile with his own father (a dentist!).
Elsewhere, Grandma Georgina urges Charlie to believe that nothing is impossible. And she's the one who tells him not to give up hope when four tickets have already been claimed. But she's not the only one in the family devoted to encouragement. Several times kind, uplifting words are exchanged.
Seen living in their native Loompaland, the Oompa-Loompas bow down to and worship cacao beans.
Violet's mother shows off her cleavage in several scenes and makes eyes at Wonka. When a huge stack of Wonka bars disappears in the rush to get a golden ticket, a department store mannequin, standing nearby, is left wearing only lingerie. Trapped momentarily inside the movie Psycho, the tiny Mike Teavee finds himself in the shower with Marion Crane (her bare legs are seen).
Four children are "dispatched" during the factory tour. Sometimes the manner of their demise is violent; other times their sizes and shapes are magically changed. (Very young viewers may find some of their fates disconcerting, but all four are seen alive and well before the credits roll.) Augustus falls into a river of chocolate and is sucked into a large, transparent pipe where he becomes stuck for a time. Veruca is swarmed by squirrels who drag her over to the garbage chute. (Her father is also pushed over the edge.) Violet swells up and becomes a giant blueberry-girl. Mike is shrunk down to the size of a man's hand.
When we first meet Violet, she is sparring with adults, leveling them with karate kicks and punches. The camera watches over Mike's shoulder as he plays a first-person shooter video game. While exploring Loompaland, Wonka uses his machete to hack a whangdoodle (a giant, flying bug-like creature) in half.
A cow is whipped by the Oompa-Loompas (so that it will generate whipped cream). Wonka accidentally cracks his head against his glass elevator a couple of times. The elevator crashes through the Buckets' roof. Tiny Mike Teavee dodges a stabbing knife blade (while onscreen in Psycho). Dolls burn up and melt during a production Wonka stages.
Crude or Profane Language
Words such as "poppycock" and "balderdash" are most typically used instead of profanity. "H---" is said. When Grandpa George exclaims that Mike Teavee is a "bratty b------," Mom covers Charlie's ears, blocking out the word (for moviegoers, too). Grandpa Joe exclaims, "Holy Buckets!" Infrequent name-calling includes the terms "idiot," "jerk," "loser," "retard," "porker" and "stupid."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Veruca's mom is glimpsed drinking a martini.
Other Negative Elements
After killing the whangdoodle, Wonka licks its blood from his machete to see if it tastes good. It doesn't. Moments later, the Oompa-Loompa chief offers Wonka a bowl full of crushed caterpillars to eat. Wonka tells a cannibal joke.
Let the voting begin. Who makes better chocolate? Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp? Only time will tell for sure, of course, but it's my guess that Mr. Wilder will live on as King Wonka, while history will force Depp to play second fiddle as Weird Wonka. The sheer androgyny evoked by his mannerisms, his hair, his makeup, his outrageously perfect teeth, and his Elton John-inspired glasses and getups scrapes on your nerves after a while. And the joke wears a bit thin about the third time he accuses those around him of being the weird ones.
Aside from a few missing story connections and director Tim Burton and Depp conspiring to turn Wonka into a wacko, though, the tone of the script owes more than a little to Wilder's 1971 movie (minus all that sorrowful singing, thankfully). And it burrows deeper into the book and the stage play while it's at it. An added bonus is that the special effects are super-cool, kid-friendly and positively hunger-inducing, and the Oompa-Loompas' song-and-dance routines are a riot. All told, I'm sure author Roald Dahl, were he still with us, would be pleased. His playful morality tale is respected here, and the lessons he sought to teach arrive alive and kicking, with a scrumdidlyumptious bar of chocolate ever at the ready to help the medicine go down.