Tim Burton's new remake of the 1971 children's film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (video clips) had a great opening weekend, perhaps because family moviegoers had few other alluring choices. The film grossed a quite nice $55.4 million in three days. Since it cost about $100 million to make, perhaps it will be profitable.
But once potential audiences hear just how weird the movie is, the "gross" reference may turn from a noun or verb to an adjective. Johnny Depp (video clips) as Willy Wonka does a startling impression of Michael Jackson, complete with pale skin, girl-ish haircut, white gloves, and plastic, possibly sinister smile. In fact, now that Jackson has been acquitted of child molestation, his marketing consultants should try to do a subtle tie-in with this movie as part of Jackson's comeback to respectability. Message: Jackson's not a malevolent abuser, but just a misunderstood man(?)-child like Willy Wonka who had a difficult childhood. In Wonka's case, his father was a dentist who hated candy, and was determined to raise a son with perfect teeth. Like Jackson, Wonka is a recluse who lives in something like Neverland -- in his case, a chocolate factory -- and his expressed desire is to create pleasing things for children the world over.
Based on the popular book by Roald Dahl, the movie is about a candy magnate who launches a worldwide lottery for children to win a tour of his mammoth factory. Five children -- four of them appallingly bratty -- and the adult companion of their choice, receive this opportunity of a lifetime. The hero of the story is Charlie (Freddie Highmore), one of the "deserving poor," who just feels incredibly lucky to have won a tour of the chocolate factory. He's such a good boy, who always obeys and honors his elders that he chooses Grandpa Joe, who once worked in the chocolate factory, as his companion.
Anthony Lane in The New Yorker writes that Depp's character “is what Macbeth would call a cream-faced loon, and far more of a child than the actual children around him. There is no doubt that he despises them, and that raises questions as to why he has lured them, with promises of candy, into his edible home."
Even with the hints of pedophilia, the movie ultimately sides with family values, as Charlie teaches the great and powerful Willy a thing or two about integrity.
Google’s aggregated movie review system gives Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 3.6 stars out of 5, with 24 positive reviews, eight neutral reviews, and three negative reviews.