DUBBY’S DVDISCUSSION: Mind blowing chocolate


Impressive sets, lush photography, a cast of unusual characters headed by Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore and direction from the dark imagination of Tim Burton, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is a visual delight without being a Burtonesque milestone.

Critic Jeff Shannon elaborates, “Author Roald Dahl vehemently disapproved of 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (hence the change in title), so it’s only fitting that Burton and his frequent star/collaborator, Johnny Depp, should have another go, infusing the enigmatic candyman’s tale with their own unique brand of imaginative oddity. Depp’s pale, androgynous Wonka led some to suspect a partial riff on that most controversial of eternal children, Michael Jackson. While preserving Dahl’s morality tale on the hazards of indulgent excess, Burton’s riotous explosion of colour provides a wondrous setting for the lessons learned by Charlie Bucket (played by Freddie Highmore, Depp’s delightful costar in Finding Neverland), as he and other, less admirable children enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Wonka’s confectionary wonderland. Elaborate visual effects make this an eye-candy overdose (including digitally multiplied Oompa-Loompas, all played by diminutive actor Deep Roy), and the film’s underlying weirdness is exaggerated by Depp’s admirably risky but ultimately off-putting performance. Of course, none of this stops Burton’s Charlie from being the must-own family DVD of 2005’s holiday season.”

Says commentator Tom Brook, “Inside the chocolate factory we find that Wonka is a strange man who does horrible things. One of the children, Violet, is punished for her obnoxiousness by being given chewing gum that changes her appearance.

Johnny Depp: “What became a main ingredient for Wonka was early memories that I have of children’s’ show hosts, when I was young, watching television, and thinking ‘Whoa, why does he talk that way? It’s really weird.’”

Freddie Highmore: “He’s got a look of madness about him, and you’re not sure what he’s thinking, and he could be going to do anything at any moment.”

One way in which Burton’s film diverges from the book is the inclusion of a side-story in which we learn that Wonka had a nasty, domineering father. It’s an attempt to explain Wonka’s mean spirit.

You could see Burton’s picture as a fable in which a young boy is rewarded for his integrity and decency, as opposed to the other children, who lose out because they’re greedy, bossy, spoilt or needlessly competitive. Charlie also has a loving family.

There’s much in this picture that is mindboggling — including real-life squirrels who were trained for 19 weeks. Tim Burton says, “I won’t be doing any more squirrel movies. But having lots of nuts on the set helps, both literally and crew members. All went a little nuts there for a while.”

Kathmandu audiences were spoilt by the simpler stage adaption of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Rato Bangala and Eelum Dixit, whose Brechtian spirit had him directing three different groups from the VI and VII grades to bring Roald Dahl’s classic to theatrical life.

Without $180 million and professional actors, Eelum used innovative improvisations to set the 40-year-old morality tale in viewers’ minds.

Comparisons are odious but if a local paper like ours is going to take cognisance of an international movie that was also (in the same year) a piece of valid theatre in Kathmandu by Kathmanduites, it must discuss the high points of the infinitely humbler and youthfully and unabashedly amateur effort. In this case it is Eelum Dixit and the creativity of his young mind. He is even now studying performing arts in America, which spawned the controversial Burton-Depp movie that had mixed reviews.