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I've never read the book, which came out in 1964, and I never saw the first movie, which opened in 1971 starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. So, I came to the new film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory unsullied by any expectations except, of course, that this is a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration. As everyone probably already knows, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the story of the reclusive Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) who runs the world's most successful chocolate factory. No one has seen him for years since he fired all his workers and "automated" the factory. But suddenly it is announced that 5 lucky kids who find a Golden Ticket in their chocolate bars will get a special tour of the factory. The winners include Charlie (Freddy Highmore) and four other really unappealing kids Violet (Annasophia Robb), Veruca (Julia Winter), Mike (Jordan Fry) and Augustus (Philip Wiegratz). The five kids accompanied by their adult chaperones (David Kelly, James Fox, Adam Godley, Missi Pyle and Franziska Troegner) join Willy Wonka on a tour of the factory and much hilarity ensues. Charlie, of course, is our hero. He has grown up very poor, living in a shack with his parents (Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor) and his grandparents including Grandpa Joe (Kelly), a former Wonka employee and Charlie's escort on the tour. The factory is run by a race of little people called the Oompa Loompa (Deep Roy) who live entirely on chocolate. A backstory for Willy Wonka has also been created to explain his psychological problems, mostly caused by his oppressive, chocolate-hating, dentist father (Christopher Lee).
Together, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have made Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, and now Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They are a great combination. Add the music by Danny Elfman and the amazing Deep Roy and you have a great movie. The Burton-esque art direction fits in perfectly with the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The film was shot mostly on real sets with very little blue-screen action, except for making Deep Roy small and numerous. The casting is wonderful. Johnny Depp is always great and it is amazing to see how he throws himself completely into a role. Plus, it is always amusing to see the weirdness he can put into a character. Freddy Highmore, who plays Charlie, also co-starred with Depp in Finding Neverland. He is pretty good on the kid-acting scale. Christopher Lee, great as always, is on quite a run. Since 1999, he has starred in five movies that have grossed over $300 million, Star Wars Episodes II and III as Count Dooku, and the three LOTR movies as Saruman. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is well on its way to a big box office too. There are some other familiar faces. Helena Bonham Carter, formerly the queen of Merchant Ivory Productions, and also Tim Burton's main squeeze, has a small role as Charlie's mother. David Kelly who was very memorable in Waking Ned Devine is great as Grandpa Joe.
But the real star of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are the Oompa Loompa. The hundreds of tiny Oompa Loompa are all played by this one guy, Deep Roy, now known as the hardest working actor in Hollywood! I have to say I just love them. They make this film a joy to watch and they steal the scene over and and over again from Johnny Depp which is no mean feat. Deep Roy should win an Oscar. The Oompa Loompa song and dance scenes are a weird Tim Burton twist on Esther Williams and Busby Berkeley musicals. Danny Elfman has put some great music to the words from the author Roald Dahl for the Oompa Loompa to sing and dance to. I hate to say it, but this is probably the feel-good movie of the summer and fun for the whole family.