As a director Tim Burton works best when he is able to create slightly skewed visions of the real world. From the hyper-real pastel-colored California of Edward Scissorhands and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to the grimy Gotham of his Batman films to the idyll of Big Fish he shines when he spins reality 90 degrees to the left. He has done it once again in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a faithful adaptation of the Roald Dahl book and not a remake of the 1971 Gene Wilder film. In Charlie and the Chocolate factory he creates two distinct worlds—the “real” world, both very modern, yet somehow timelessly retro and the weird candy world of chocolatier Willie Wonka’s factory where trees are made of spun sugar and a chocolate waterfall dominates the landscape. Of course the movie isn’t about the art direction, and Burton has ensured that the characters are strong enough to compete with the film’s strange backdrop. Johnny Depp seems to be channeling Michael Jackson’s otherworldly mannerisms as Wonka, a slightly creepy, but misunderstood outcast who has built his own fanciful universe to deal with the damage done to him by his overbearing father. His strange rendering of the parent-hating Wonka—complete with perfect fake teeth and a pageboy haircut—is an all or nothing performance that is so out there that it will either enthrall or annoy audiences. Either way it will make an impression. The other standout performance is from Freddie Highmore as the sweet-hearted Charlie. He and Depp worked together in last year’s Finding Neverland, and have real chemistry. Highly recommended.
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