Time: 115 mins.
Academy Award nomination for Best Costume.
SYNOPSIS: Charlie Bucket, a boy from an impoverished family under the shadow of a giant chocolate factory, wins a candy bar contest and is given a tour, along with four other children, of the amazing factory run by the eccentric Willy Wonka and his staff of Oompa-Loompas.
BOTTOM LINE: No one's better at playing eccentrics with soul than Johnny Depp, who's made a career out of oddball characters. He clearly enjoys making films with Tim Burton, who certainly helps him unleash his talent in all sorts of interesting directions. Intrigued by the story, I decided to give this version a whirl since I find the Gene Wilder film more than a little creepy once the children start disappearing and have never seen that version all the way through.
While bad things still happen to the children who take the tour, they are so self-absorbed and bad-tempered you can't help but feel, much like Willa Wonka, a bit relieved when they're gone. I wouldn't want them in my house either. His attempts to impress his guests garner him nothing but disdane in return, except from Charlie and his grandfather who seem to be the only ones enchanted with his world. Granted it takes a really open mind and maybe a perpetually hungry stomach to see past the overall weirdness of this man who makes candy for a living, but the connection between Depp and Highmore is true and what makes the film worth watching.
The visual style is a fantastic confection of colorful, cartoony set pieces that give your eyes something to feast on even when the story lags. While the plot may be based on a child's story, I just can't see many of them being entertained by Burton's effort, which is just too serious, quirky and disjointed. Granted each sequence holds many wonders to behold, including Depp's odd performance, but there's no real flow to the film and it's hard to emotionally connect to Wonka's weirdness. Depp and Burton certainly enjoy creating unusual worlds and characters, and while this film is a treat to look at, it's not as fun as it should be.