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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a colorful kids' adventure that -- like the book -- includes some intense scenes. Obnoxious children are ridiculed visually and in words by the Oompa Loompas and dispatched. One girl blows up into a giant blueberry, another boy is sucked into a tube, the other girl is attacked and pinned down by squirrels who proceed to throw her down a garbage chute. In one early scene, dolls burn up and their eyeballs pop out. The movie is much closer in dark tone to the book than its cinematic predecessor. Willy Wonka himself seems to disdain families.
What's the story?
In CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) wins a chance to tour Willy Wonka's (Johnny Depp) chocolate factory, with four other children, when he purchases a chocolate bar that has a "golden ticket" inside. The group of children and guardians tour the factory, where they will see the top-secret, magical processes by which Willy Wonka makes his delicious candy. Specifically, they see the Oompa Loompas (all played by a digitally multiplied and reduced Deep Roy) make the candy and mete out judgments against misbehaving children.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' relationships with their parents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. How do Willy's difficulties with his dentist father affect him as an adult? How does his fear of his father's disapproval lead him to rebel? How does Charlie's good relationship with his parents and grandparents allow him to feel self-confident, trusting, and generous?
How does the film compare Charlie (as the good child) with bad children (rich, spoiled, greedy, materialistic)? How does the movie show that selfish, silly parents produce selfish, silly children?
- In theaters: July 15, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: November 8, 2005
- Cast: Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp
- Director: Tim Burton
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Integrity
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: quirky situations, action, and mild language
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