"There is no place I know to compare with pure imagination." Gene Wilder sang that dreamy refrain when he played Willy Wonka, the candy-making madman in the beloved but creepy 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
That famous song would fit in beautifully with director Tim Burton's "take two" of Dahl's whimsical adventure. Burton turns the story into an explosion of "pure imagination." In fact, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is so alive with visual invention that some critics are saying there's too much imagination on screen.
Fans will come away with mixed reactions. Burton's version sticks closer to the original narrative, and young Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland) is brilliant as Charlie. No one denies that Burton still has a knack for opulent spectacle. But the candy man has suffered yet another extreme makeover. In the 1971 film, director Mel Stuart transformed Dahl's jumpy genius of junk food into a warm and endearing figure … and then put Wonka's name in the title in place of Charlie's. Johnny Depp, Tim Burton's favorite leading man (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood), plays Wonka as a somewhat-androgynous oddball with a much more elaborate back story than Dahl ever delineated.
Christian press critics have varying opinions, but most of them find the film a worthwhile confection with some substantial lessons.
Todd Hertz (Christianity Today Movies) says Burton and Depp have "succeeded in creating a fable that is not creepy or trippy, but just possessing a gentle weirdness … that is completely appropriate to Dahl's original book. In fact, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a charming, engrossing, and often laugh-out-loud funny fairy ...1
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