Wonka Bars, chocolate waterfalls, Oompa-Loompas and Everlasting Gobstoppers can mean only one thing: we’re in the land of Willy Wonka once again!
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has sold over 13 million copies in 32 languages, renowned film producer Richard Zanuck (Driving Miss Daisy, M*A*S*H, Butch Cassidy, etc.) tapped visionary director Tim Burton (Big Fish, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands) to take us on another tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. This new version claims to be closer to the original story than the 1971 film version that starred Gene Wilder.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is a poor boy who lives in the shadow of Wonka’s enormous chocolate factory, with his parents and grandparents, who eat cabbage soup, when they eat at all. For 10 years Charlie has passed the gates of the mysterious factory going to and from school, where he’s inhaled the delicious aroma of chocolate. One day, word goes out that Wonka will open the gates for a tour of his factory to five lucky children who find golden tickets hidden inside their candy bars. A feeding frenzy ensues, and four spoiled, greedy kids quickly grab up four golden tickets, until despite the odds, poor, starving Charlie uncovers the last golden ticket.
Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) are then given a tour by the lively and eccentric Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) through his magical, mind-blowing candyland, along with the four other beastly winners and their parents. While taking in the wonders of Wonka’s world, the four other children prove themselves incapable of appreciating what Wonka has accomplished, whereas Charlie does, which Wonka realizes. He rewards Charlie by turning over to him the keys to his kingdom and Charlie in turn touches a chord in Wonka that had nearly expired.
“Some adults forget what it was like to be a kid. Roald didn’t,” notes Burton. “So you have characters that remind you of people in your own life and kids you went to school with, but at the same time it harkens back to age-old archetypes of mythology and fairy tales. It’s a mix of emotion and humor and adventure that’s absolutely timeless, and I think that’s why it stays with you. He remembers vividly what it was like to be that age, but he also layers his work with an adult perspective. That’s why you can revisit this book at any time and get different things from it no matter what your age.”
“It’s a beautifully simple message, in this world where people are always striving after material things and success,” Burton adds. “There are material things and then there are the emotional and spiritual. Sometimes the most important things are the simplest.”
The film is rated PG for “quirky situations, action and mild language,” and may not be appropriate for children under 6.
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Philip Murphy covers family-oriented films for United Parenting Publications.