The Johnny Depp Archive

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christopher Lee, Deep Roy, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, James Fox, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Liz Smith, Annasophia Robb, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Philip Wiegratz, Missi Pyle

Directed by: Tim Burton

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) welcomes you to the Chocolate Factory

Johnny Depp. Tim Burton. chocolate. Sometimes you can just be too excited about a new film. And that's always dangerous, because generally (Troy, Constantine) that's when it disappoints. But folks, this time you can believe the hype because Charlie and the Chocolate Factory rocks.

We all know the plot: nice, ordinary kid from impoverished post-war family wins golden ticket to spend day in magical chocolate factory with bonkers entrepreneur Willy Wonka.

(Quite why Charlie and his family live in a tumbledown shack on the outskirts of a grim, Lowry-esque industrial northern town in, um, America, is never quite explained - perhaps if the town had been in England, his father, replaced at the toothpaste factory by a machine, would have received redundancy money and jobseeker's allowance, and poor wee Charlie could have more than one bar of chocolate a year. That seemed harsh when I was a kid - it must seem completely unfeasible to today's rotten-toothed fatties. But I digress.)

Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is a winner

Of course, if you're only six, you probably don't know the plot - hence the heart-warming cries of delight echoing across the cinema as Charlie opens his chocolate bar to discover a glimpse of gold inside. What, did you really think he wouldn't get a ticket, and spend the rest of the film stuck outside the factory gates while the bratty kids get all the action?

Because of course Charlie is not alone in his visit to the factory. With him are the clinically obese, chocolate scoffing German Augustus Gloop, spoilt little daddy's girl Veruca Salt, super-competitive over-achiever Violet Beauregard (with mum to match) and surly computer gaming whiz Mike Teavee, each destined to come to a sticky end in the chocolate factory as, like the cast of Johnny's first film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, they're picked off one by one by their sinister host.

Delicious - Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

No stripy jumper and fistful of knives for Willy Wonka of course - instead he comes complete with dapper top hat and dandified velvet frock coat, shiny Cuban heels and somewhat creepy purple surgeon's gloves. Add to that a face so pale he could be Scottish, a splendid, gleaming overbite and weird bobbed hair so shiny it looks polished, and fancying Johnny Depp in this film becomes as deliciously perverse as his candy creations.

This is the fourth time Depp has worked with Tim Burton (fifth if you count the forthcoming animation Corpse Bride, which, incidentally, looks fantastic) and Burton has clearly given him free rein to do whatever he likes. And, like the proverbial kid in the sweetie shop (yeah yeah), he's run riot, giving the performance of a lifetime (again). His Willy Wonka is perfectly pitched: an eccentric loner and deeply damaged man-child, he's completely unable to relate to the kids in his charge, and yet somehow has never quite grown up either (but no, I wouldn't suggest a Michael Jackson comparison - Willy Wonka can't stand being touched by children.)

Stuck firmly in the 1960s, he's like a cross between Austin Powers and Edward Scissorhands, skipping about in his own private Neverland like manic junkie journalist Raoul Duke in a drugstore. Bitter sweet and definitely nuts, there's a nasty streak running through him a mile wide, and yet inside there's a soft centre just waiting to melt.

Christopher Lee as Dr Wilbur Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Because this Willy Wonka, unlike Roald Dahl's original creation, comes with that vital attribute that children really can't give a chocolate coated fig about but we adults love so much: a backstory. How, Burton asks, does anyone become Willy Wonka, a mega-successful, reclusive candy-making genius? The answer: by growing up sporting a hideous dental brace that encompasses his entire head, banned from ever eating chocolate by his fierce dentist father, Wilbur Wonka, aka the marvellous Christopher Lee. Convinced? Well, the fact that I get to see Christopher Lee playing Johnny's dad is enough to sell it to me, but as an add in I think it works very well, and is thoroughly in keeping with Dahl's dark story. And the flag bit (you'll know it when you see it) is just genius.

Inside the Chocolate Factory - Johnny Depp leads the way as Willy Wonka

But what of Roald Dahl himself? The curmudgeonly author famously hated the 1970s adaptation of his book, starring Gene Wilder as a woolly-haired Wonka, so what would he have made of this new version? His wife Felicity believes he'd have loved it - so who am I to disagree? And surely no-one can be closer to Dahl's disturbing and dangerous vision, his macabre and mischievous style, than Tim Burton, the king of creepiness and god of gothic himself.

At home with the Buckets in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

From the picturesque poverty of the Bucket household, complete with watery cabbage soup and bedridden grandparents (Liz Smith is a joy, incidentally), to the incinerated puppets that greet the five lucky winners (hooray! The 'It's A Small World' ride at Disneyland is one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.) to the fantastic, lollipop-littered, sticky sweet sugarscapes and mad scientist machinery inside the factory itself, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is visually stunning, endlessly inventive and deliciously quirky - in short, everything you ever dreamed it could be when you were ten.

Deep Roy plays all the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

And then there are the Oompa Loompas. Yes, perhaps the idea of transporting an entire indigenous population from their (albeit exceedingly perilous) homeland, imprisoning them in a factory and paying them in cocoa beans is not awfully politically correct and I'm sure Immigration would have something to say about it if they ever found out, but at least in this film, they're not orange. Instead, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, vertically challenged actor Deep Roy plays not one but all of the all-singing, all-dancing Oompa Loompas, and is just brilliant - the only character who comes close to stealing Johnny's thunder. Just wait for the moment when the Oompa Loompas take on the Darkness - I thought I was going to die laughing.

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Brilliant visuals, a fab score from Danny Elfman, an excellent supporting cast (besides Christopher Lee, little Freddie Highmore is delightful and not at all annoying as Charlie Bucket, David Kelly makes a marvellously endearing Grandpa Joe, and James Fox is perfect as Veruca's stiff-necked father) and a superstar turn from Johnny, this is Tim Burton at his very best. Okay, so the ending is a little sickly sweet, but by that point I was willing to forgive anything. A sugar spun confection of perfection that'll leaving you as high as a bagful of fizzy cola bottles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is madly entertaining, completely hilarious, gorgeously heart-warming and just delicious. And I am so going back for second helpings.

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