Don't get me wrong. I like Tim Burton. I like him when he's quirky and playful and running loose and flouting convention. I loved Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks and Nightmare Before Christmas and Big Fish. But for the second time now, he has decided to mess with a classic. Who can forget his disastrous 're-imagining' of Planet of the Apes? Everyone!
But now, as if he hasnt learned his lesson, he decided to make a movie based on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring the incomparable Gene Wilder, happens to be one of the best-loved kids' movies ever. Tim Burton insists his movie is not a remake. He says his movie is more faithful to the book. Right. He bit off a lot more than he can chew this time. I can see Gene Wilder and all the fans of the first movie looking over Burton's shoulders while he was making this one, and waiting for him to screw up.
And screw up he did. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a lot more visually stunning, thanks to modern technology and Burton's quirky vision. But that's all it has going for it. It doesnt have the heart of the first movie. Gene Wilder, being Gene Wilder, has an avuncular aura that kids can find fun, and at the same time loving. Johnny Depp tried his take on the Wonka character, but he ended up just being weird. The backstory on Willy's childhood helped a bit in making the audience empathize with him, but it was done by breezing through what happens to the kids. It felt like Burton just wanted to get the rest of the kids out of the way so he could get on with Willy Wonka and Charlie's story. And the songs. The songs in the Burton movie were just forgettable. They were quirky all right. All dazzle and cleverness, but again they didnt have the heart of Candy Man or Pure Imagination of the first movie.
But I have to say that my kids liked the Burton movie. But they didnt love it. They werent singing the songs on their way home or re-enacting scenes in it during playtime the way my brother and I did after we saw the first movie. The movie didnt have that much of an impact on them. Im looking for a DVD of the first one so we can see it.
Let's hope that Tim Burton learns his lesson and leaves the classics well enough alone.