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Creepiness Comes Wrapped in "The Chocolate Factory"

  • Lisa Rice Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 27, 2007
Creepiness Comes Wrapped in "The Chocolate Factory"

Release Date:  July 15, 2005
Rating:  PG (quirky situations, action and mild language)
Genre:  Action/Adventure
Run Time:  115 minutes
Director:  Tim Burton
Actors:  Johnny Depp, Freddy Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, and Deep Roy

This is SUCH a Tim Burton film!  And the creepiness even began before its start, with previews for another Burton movie called “Corpse Bride” about a guy who accidentally marries a dead woman.  Ew!

Nevertheless, with a remarkable score by Hollywood composer Danny Elfman, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” opens with a scene of a very strange, automated candy bar packaging system. The alien/robot-looking candy wrapping machines have human gestures as they wrap and box the chocolates.  However, in five of the candy bars are placed six golden tickets – invitations to a special tour of Willy Wonka’s long-closed, famous and austere-looking factory.

The candy bars are sent all over the world, and within days, the first winner is found. His name is Augustus Gloop (Philip Weigratz), and he’s a very chubby candy-holic from Germany.  Next is Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), a rich girl from England who has never heard the word “no,” and the third winner is Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb), a spoiled gum chewer from Atlanta. Then comes Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), a bratty know-it-all from Denver, followed by the humble Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), a poor boy that lives with his parents and grandparents in a crooked house just down from the factory.

On the day of the tour, the Wonka gates swing open, and the children meet the strangest of men, the owner of the factory, Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp), who has constant flashbacks to his bizarre childhood. The children also get the strangest of tours.  They take a wild ride on a pink seahorse through a volatile indoor river, passing things like mangled puppets, cows being whipped (to get whipped cream), and concerts from men dressed as women. … Okay, Tim. …

Because of past theft and betrayal, Charlie has ceased to hire humans, and now employs Oompa Loompas (all played by Deep Roy), who deliver morality tales, through song and dance, to the children who disobey the rules. The five children commit such infringements as drinking from the sterile chocolate river, chewing gum that doesn’t quite have all the kinks worked out of it, trying to steal a nut-cracking squirrel, and jumping into a shrinking invention that turns giant objects into TV-sized objects for the grabbing.  One by one, the children get omitted and finally, only one hopeful child is left to finish the tour and claim the grand prize.

But things are not as easy as they seem. Because of the angst of his past, Willy Wonka makes an offer that is unacceptable to the winning child.  Perhaps things could change with a glass elevator tour back to the place of childhood wounds?

For all its quirkiness, the strange “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” does paint a great back-story for Willy, filling in some blanks for those of us who loved the 1971 original ("Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" starring Gene Wilder) but never quite knew why the chocolatier was so very strange.  It seems that his father, a dentist (who incidentally created ghastly braces and head-gear contraptions for Willy to wear), never let his son have candy, and even burned his Halloween treats in the fire.  And, as we all know, such parenting is known to induce children to run away and became chocolate fanatics – and eventually recluses.

In the end, though, as some truths come to light, so does the healing.  The message of the movie is that the importance of the love and unconditional acceptance of a father cannot be overstated. And "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" does a fine job in making this theme clear.

The production value is high, with some good acting, a brilliant music score, and some clever special effects.  The children around me in the theater especially enjoyed Willy’s glass elevator, which could travel not just up and down, but sideways, crossways, and diagonal.

If you’re not a Tim Burton fan, however, (“Nightmare Before Christmas”, “James and the Giant Peach”), and would rather skip the strange, distorted creepiness, and even some questionable, off-color sexual allusions, you may want to opt for something a bit lighter and friendlier this summer, like “Herbie.”

AUDIENCE:  Children and adults


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None
  • Language/Profanity:  Grandfather mouths curses, though inaudible, and people call each other things like “porker” and “bugger" (homosexual); Willy talks about cannibalism; Willy licks bug’s blood; Willy says, “Don’t touch that squirrel’s nuts!” There is scatological humor, discussion of pimples and fart noises; someone is called "idiot;" someone says “gosh darn;” Willy tells Charlie’s grandparents that they smell like old people and soap.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Lots of cleavage from one of the moms; some scenes of men dressed as women; allusion to bestiality with a mysterious area where pink sheep are sheared … for Willy.
  • Violence:  Not as much violence as weird creepiness, like:  dolls on fire, with their eyeballs falling out, hideous head-gear contraption, cows being whipped to make whipped cream, fish guts and skeleton, pink sheep being sheared for some mysterious purpose, several other scattered skeletons, mangled puppets, Willy continually slamming into glass elevator and falling over, and a guy using a knife to swat at a child in a tub.