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July 24th, 2005

laurie_robey and I finally saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yesterday. It was a fun flick, but anybody who tells you it's closer to Dahl's book than the Gene Wilder version is pulling your taffy. The Gene Wilder version adds superfluous songs (really, who needs "Cheer Up Charlie"?) and a bizarre "moral of the story" around the Everlasting Gobstopper ... the Johnny Depp version leaves that out but adds the story of Willy Wonka's stern and remote father making him what he became and puts a twist on the end that I won't reveal.

Of course, there's no point of a remake if they don't put their own spin on it, and when I first saw the ads for this film, I was worried it was going to be a "ditto, ditto, but with more budget" of the Gene Wilder version. The first entrance to the candy room and Augustus falling into the river of chocolate, certainly looked almost shot-for-shot identical to things we'd seen before.

The good news is the new movie is actually its own creature once you get past a few obligatory nods. I particularly like the portrayal of the Oompa Loompas, who in this version are closer to the quasi-pygmy tribesmen they were in the book ... but with a surreal twist. The Oompa Loompa songs for this version lift the original lyrics whole cloth from the book, which is a nice touch, and are all sung by Danny Elfman. (This in particular was a great treat ... for an Oingo Boingo fan it was like a visit from an old friend.) There are also a few Tim Burton/Johnny Depp in jokes ... the pink sheep reference went way over my head until laurie_robey explained it, at which point it became hilarious.

As for the portrayal of Willy Wonka himself, well, like the Wilder version, this was basically wrong, but wrong in a good way. ;) This Wonka is an unsocialized asperger's candidate, stuck at 9 years old and having trouble dealing with the world around him. Instead of becoming Charlie's mentor, by the end of the movie Charlie has become Willy Wonka's big brother. It's cool ... but I would like to see a version where Willy Wonka is the moustache-twirling mountebank from the book sometime. (If only because I like moustache-twirling mountebanks.)

My only real problem with the movie isn't actually the movie's fault, except in as much as it's a movie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My problem is as much with the book and the Gene Wilder version as it is with the new one.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a bizarre story. The book reads more like a series of ritual sacrifices more than anything else, where children are sent to horrible deaths (even if they don't actually die) for relatively minor offenses. It has a streak of vicious puritanism, which can be fun in a snarky way, but becomes corrosive if you indulge in it too much. It's the kind of thing a grouchy old uncle would come up with while ranting to the neighborhood kids how rotten they are and how in his days kids had to work barefoot out in the snow and were grateful.

Augustus can't stop eating, okay. Does that really make him "vile and foul?" Could it perhaps that he has a glandular disorder and needs medical treatment, rather than being berated for his rottenness and "greed"?

Veruca is a spoiled brat, sure. But the Oompa Loompa song itself addresses the fact that her parents made her into one. Instead of treating her rottenly and laughing at her, how about showing her the error of her ways?

Violet chews gum incessantly. Um, that's it? On the long list of horrible sins, this warrants that kind of abuse?

Mike watches TV. Even given that Roald Dahl hated TV (for which I don't blame him, I tend to be pretty down on it myself), there wouldn't be any Charlie and the Chocolate Factory without it. Roald Dahl made large portions of his living off of screenwriting. How's that for self-loathing?

Of course, to get around the relative non-horribleness of what the kids are blasted for, the film turns them into obnoxious grotesques, and their parents even moreso. After all, once they're not really people any more, you don't feel so guilty about treating them rottenly.

Still, that reaction is a purely personal one; having grown up getting blasted for minor offenses, I suppose my sympathy naturally goes to the child in this case, and not the bitter adult who has the kid's presence forced on them. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a book that's best read when you're annoyed at someone, and the movie is pretty much the same.

I can put that aside and enjoy it; but I can't take it to my heart the way so many other folks do.

-The Gneech

PS: Through a string of coincidences, I am writing this while listening to the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, and suddenly I have a mental image of Johnny Depp in fishnets singing "Sweet Transvestite." The scary part is how well it actually works. 0.o

Have I Mentioned That I Hate This Area...?

As some of you probably know, Vince was kind enough to give me the original artwork for his "Leo" image (the source of my 'dancing Torey' icon). I don't have a lot of Vince originals, because whenever they go up for auction they tend to go flying out of my price range, and this particular piece has a lot of attachment for me, since it was a gift.

laurie_robey, happening to look over at where I have it framed on the wall, says, "Oh, I never noticed that piece was smudged before."

Er ... huh?

Well, brothers and sisters, the goddamn northern Virginia humidity got in and CONDENSATION FORMED ON THE INSIDE OF THE GLASS, making the ink run all over the lower part of the picture.

It's not totally destroyed, but it is definitely damaged.

I've forgiven this rotten place for a lot of crap ... but this is something I will not forgive it for.

Northern Virginia, you suck, and I hate you. >.<

-The Gneech

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