Portrayed in broad, cartoonish strokes, the kids' cruelties in the film serve as comedy, though they're not always funny, and each child-parent set reveals its dysfunction. Indeed, the non-Charlie children are so loathsome that their various "punishments" seem deserved. These are staged as song-and-dance numbers by the Oompa Loompas, modeled after scenes that some parents will recall from other venues, for instance, Esther Williams musicals, the Who's guitar-smashing rock shows, Hair, Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Fly, and even Tim Burton and Depp's Edward Scissorhands, in Willy's flashbacks to his troubled relationship with his dentist father (Christopher Lee). There are some current-day references, some of which fail miserably (the Oprah appearance comes to mind), while others are merely annoying and serve to break the film's dreamlike power.
The film's strangeness is often fun, in particular Depp's white-faced makeup, frisky line readings (check his explanation: "Everything in this room is eatable; even I'm eatable, but that's called cannibalism and frowned on in most societies"), and weird affect. But the narrative rhythms are uneven, and Charlie, especially, is undeveloped, more an emblem of goodness than a full-on character. While the novel maintains a more or less steady focus through Charlie's perspective of all these crazy goings-on, the film is less coherent. It skips about to cover multiple storylines, including Willy's memories and the four bad children's separate exploits, all eventually pulled together by Charlie's good-boy summary of what matters most, his cozy family.