Thursday, 18 June 2015

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl is one of history's most famous children's authors, whose works have entertained millions of children through the ages. With such classics as The Witches, the Twits and the BFG, his stories have stood the test of time so well that it's almost impossible to find someone who doesn't enjoy his works.
I say almost impossible, because I can't stand the guy.
Seriously, his stories would be traumatising if given a straight adaptation. In the Witches for example, the titular witches are shapeshifters who pretend to be teachers so that they can literally eat children.
Yeah, enjoy the nightmares.
Luckily, when it comes to film adaptations, the producers and directors had a tendency to completely ignore anything Roald said and do things their own way, which gave us the simply brilliant Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder.
This was a great movie which is a part of every child's life, instilling in them a sense of wonder, and a few life lessons along the way.
Skip to 2005 and Warner Brothers decided to do things a tad differently, using the hottest star of the moment, Johnny Depp.
And by 'Differently' I mean 'Terribly'.
Johnny Depp: The Movie
Why do I hate this movie so much? Well, let me explain, and I'll try to avoid doing any comparisons to Gene Wilder.
The movie starts off with a production line showing exactly how Wonka Bars are made.
In the most efficient manner possible of course.
After a lot of CGI we see a hand placing golden tickets into five bars, which get shipped out all over the world.
One gets shipped to Tokyo. It doesn't get found in Tokyo though.
As the trucks filled with chocolate leave, one of them passes by a young boy, who the narrator informs us is named Charlie Bucket.
This kid.

While the movie is named after him and the narrator says it's his story, he doesn't actually do anything significant. The narrator tells us about how terrible his life is and how his struggling father can barely afford to put food on the table.
It never occurs to them to just sell the sizable chunk of land they own though.
Charlie's father comes home and greets his family, which includes all four of Charlie's grandparents, who spend all of their time lying in one large bed. He kisses his wife who asks if there's anything that can go in their soup except for cabbage, but he has nothing.
It's explained that he toils for most of each day in a toothpaste factory.
So he has a full-time job but can't afford anything more than cabbage? He doesn't even think to mix it up with some carrots or something?
Where does all of his money go? Unless he's paid far, far less than minimum wage he should have enough to pay for some food. It doesn't look like he spends anything on house maintenance.
I'm convinced he spends it all on hookers.
It's not like he gets much privacy at home.
One thing he does do is steal any faulty toothpaste caps, so that Charlie can continue to work on his scale model of Wonka's factory.
It never occurs to them to sell it as an art piece.
As the grandparents admire Charlie's handiwork, Joe tells Charlie a story about how he used to work for Mr. Wonka, back when he was just starting out as a chocolatier. His store was small but popular, because Wonka was a genius who could do amazing things with chocolate.
Or just outright ignore the laws of reality.
Willy Wonka became richer and richer, expanding his company to become a huge factory. But he inventions were popular, so his rivals started sending in spies to steal his secrets.
It's not known how they cracked his amazing security procedures.
As his rivals started unveiling new products using his secrets, Wonka turned bitter and threw all of his workers out and shut his factory.
But then, all of a sudden, he opened it up again. But he didn't hire any staff. The only things to enter or leave the factory are the lorries entering with supplies or leaving with chocolate.
But there's a bit of a plothole here.
Joe tells Charlie about the wonderful things they used to make, such as ice-cream that stayed cold on a hot day, chewing gum that never lost its' flavour and candy balloons that could be blown to incredible sizes.
But Charlie exclaims that these things are impossible.
Wait, what? 
Did the world just forget about unmelting ice cream when Wonka closed up? Why would his rivals ever go back to making normal ice cream? And after Wonka reopened, did he just not bother with these products?
Anyhoo, Charlie goes to bed and overnight signs are put up all around town, explaining about the golden tickets.
And so we get a montage of Wonka bars being sold around the world, from Tokyo to New York.
And it's even more racist than you'd expect.
The confuses me is that Tokyo and new York are shown to be as technologically advanced as they are in the real world, but the Bucket's town looks Victorian.
Seriously, sell that tiny bit of land, it's got to be worth a fortune in that location.
There's a bit later where Joe gives Charlie a coin from the 1920s, which actually gets accepted at a shop. It's really distracting. even worse is that Charlie's family all talk with English accents, but use American words like candy and pants (When talking about trousers). I read that the makers wanted it to seem like America to British audiences and Britain to American audiences, but it just doesn't work. 
Anyway, Joe constantly encourages Charlie to try to find a ticket, but George (The other gradnfather) points out just how unlikely it is.
We're clearly supposed to think of George as a miserable old git, but he's the only one who seems to have his feet on the ground. he points out that the tickets will most likely go to those who eat lots of chocolate.
Oh look, more racism.
That's the first winner, Augustus Gloop. He's a very fat German kid who eats a ridiculous amount of chocolate. His doting mother says that if it wasn't god for him, he wouldn't eat so much. besides, it's all nutrients.
She's a freaking moron.
Yes, I am aware that there are people this stupid in the real world and childhood obesity is on the rise, but it doesn't stop these people from being bad parents.
Also, Dusseldorf looks nothing like that. Less mountains for one thing.
Joe points out that with one found, things will get really crazy. Cut to Buckinghamshire in England, where the second ticket has been found by a young girl called Veruca Salt.
And people think that celebrity names these days are stupid.
Mr. Salt is utterly whipped, following his daughters constant demands without question. He owns a nut business (Called Salts & Nuts, which I think is actually rather clever) and when his daughter said that she wanted a ticket, he turned his entire factory over to unwrapping Wonka bars.
I don't think nut manufacturers actually make enough money to afford to live in a palace in freaking Buckinghamshire, but this is a kids movie so I'll just assume he's also descended from Royalty somewhere.
Something else that gets my cockles up is when one of his workers finds the ticket, her first thought is to try and steal it.
Two factory workers shown so far, both turned out to be thieves.
Because all working class folk would gladly steal from their employers if the prize is worth it.
The stories of rich kids finding tickets is interrupted when Charlie's parents come hom and give him his birthday present early. What's his birthday present? A bar of chocolate, because they're so poor that they can only afford one bar of chocolate a year.
Really? Just one bar a year? How much do they charge for chocolate in this world? You can get a bar of chocolate for less than £1 these days.
I swear, Mr. Bucket must have a gambling addiction or something.
So naturally Joe gets Charlies all excited about finding a golden ticket, which of course doesn't happen.
Lot's of buildup with no payoff? Sounds like my love life.
When I'm a grandparent (If I ever do have kids) I promise here and now to never be as stupid as Joe.
But charlie perks himself up and shares his chocolate with his whole family because he's used to disappointment and has trained himself to find joy in seeing his family happy.
Back to other kids finding tickets now as the third is found by Violet Bauregarde, who's a competition obsessed girl with a black belt.
Because being competitive is somehow bad?
Her mother is obsessed with her daughter being a champion, just like she was when she was young.
Reminds me of Andrew from Breakfast Club.
But she also talks about being a champion gum-chewer, which seems like the most pointless thing to be champion of ever, but then again, have you seen the Guinness World Records website these days?
Then again, maybe she's testing that whole 'never lose its' flavour' claim from earlier?
As the grandparents insult Violet their tiny tv announces the fourth ticket winner, Mike Teevea.
I miss the subtlety of Chanbara Striptease.
Mike's a bratty little kid who spends most of his time playing computer games. When he heard about the tickets he used his intellect to crack the system, calculating where the most likely stores to hold the ticket were.
And since he's obsessed with computer games, he's borderline sociopathic, screaming for the enemies in his game to die.
Even ten years ago, people tried to claim that violent computer games caused kids to be violent themselves, because adults seem to think that children can't tell the difference between fiction and reality.
Fortunately for me, Penn Gillette did a show about this very thing and he has just one thing to say about it.
Actually, he has more to say, but I figured I'd summarise.
After George rants about how odd it is for a kid who doesn't like chocolate to want to go to a chocolate factory, the narrator gives us some bad news about Mr. Bucket, who's just lost his job to a machine.
Because unions aren't a thing apparently.
I get really tired of people going on and on about machines replacing people. I'm currently dealing with this in my job, which is now using self-service machines. But that's a rant for another day.
So Joe gives Charlie his life savings, which amount to a single coin, because apparently all three generations of Bucket family are bad with money.
And they say state pensions don't pay a living wage.
This is something that really annoys me about movies focused on poor people but that're set in the modern day. There are four very old people (Combined age 381) who're so weak they can't get out of bed. And we're supposed to believe that they can't afford anything more than cabbage soup to eat?
That's four pensions they should be getting. Plus a carers allowance (For Mrs. Bucket, since she can't go to work due to looking after them). Not to mention child tax credits (Charlie's a minor). Add on to that Mr. Bucket's job/jobseeker's allowance.
It's never mentioned aboutwhether they  pay rent to a landlord or not. But if not, then as I've mentioned they could just sell the land. If they do pay a landlord, then why is their building so decrepit? They could very easily demand better living conditions.yet another way they could make some easy money, Joe used to work with Wonka personally, with all of the fresh excitement he could make a mint with an unlicensed biography of the guy.
But enough ranting about how unrealistic the basic premise is, we've got a child's dreams to crush once more.
No ticket.
The next day Charlie overhears some people talking about how a Russian kid found the last ticket. As he dejectedly walks home he spots some money lying on the ground, so he picks it up and decides to buy some chocolate with it.
Technically, this is theft. Three working class people so far, all thieves.
As he buys a bar of chocolate, he overhears some other people talking about how the fifth ticket was a fake, meaning the real one is still out there. And guess who finds it?
Gee, I would never have seen that coming.
Wait, didn't Wonka release all five tickets during the opening? You're telling me that the tickets sent to America were found before the ticket that was sent down to the end of the street?
Literally the end of the street.
The shopkeeper expresses joy at having the last ticket found in his store, but he accidentally alerts everyone around, who all offer Charlie lots of money to buy the ticket. But the shopkeeper tells Charlie not to sell it, but to run home instead, which Charlie does immediately.
Forgetting to collect his change of course.
Four working class people now, all thieves.
When he gets home Charlie tells his family about the ticket, but he says that he'll sell it so that the family can have money. George calls him over and calls him an idiot. Money's so common that they're printing more of it all of the time, but those tickets will never be made again.
In other words, George previously told Charlie not to waste his life dreaming for things that will probably never be, but now that he's lucky enough to have it, he's saying not to squander his luck.
Pictured: The only sensible adult in this movie.
So Charlie agrees to go to the factory and take his Grandpa Joe with him.
Only took us 30 minutes to get to the actual plot.
So on February 1st all five children and their guardians gather outside the factory and wait, Veruca naturally complaining about wanting to go in sooner.
The gates open and a voice booms out, instructing them to enter, which they do, continuing to walk until they reach the main doors.
The doors open to reveal....
So yeah, that happened. At least now I know what my nightmares will look like for the next eternity.
Pictured: My face throughout.
Anyway, these abominations against all things just were singing Wonka's praises. He was supposed to have been sitting on the chair that rose in the middle, but considering what happened it's probably for the best that he wasn't.
I say probably because, as we're about to find out, Wonka himself is just plain creepy.
Kill it with fire.
Joe tells everyone that he's Willy Wonka. Everyone just stares at him, utterly underwhelmed. Joe asks Wonka if he recognises him, but Wonka doesn't.
Don't worry Joe, you only worked with him for about 10 years, don't take it personally.
Wonka's just a bit of a dick is all.
They enter the factory at last and the children (And parents) immediately start trying to suck up to Wonka, starting with a hug from Violet.
Apparently, little girls repulse him.
Veruca and Augustus introduce themselves, to which Wonka insults them. Then he turns around and recognises Mike as the devil who cracked the system.
Yeah, if you don't like children, why the heck did you invite five at random to enter your factory?
Well okay, we all know the answer, but why did he choose a method that would all but guarantee that only the greediest and most selfish children would win?
he didn't really think his plan through too much did he?
For some reason Wonka struggles to say the word 'parents'. Then he seems to suffer a flashback as he whispers the word 'daddy' to himself.
Because if there's one thing Willy Wonka needed it was daddy issues.
Seriously? Does Willy Wonka really need to have a tragic backstory? I can't even blame Roald Dahl for this one, it was all Burton and Depp.
Also, for some reason Augustus acts like a jerk to Charlie, offering chocolate only to then scoff in Charlie's face. because being a glutton isn't enough of a sin apparently.
They walk along the corridor, which shrinks and shrinks until they reach the end and a tiny door. Wonka unlocks the door and pushes the whole wall aside to reveal a world of pure imagination.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Burton's style. I rather like it in fact. It suited Alice in Wonderland. It's perfect for dark gothic stories like Corpse Bride and Nightmare Before Christmas.
But for Wonka's chocolate factory?
It just doesn't work. I keep expecting Jack Skellington to pop out and start asking what everything is.
Anyway, the kids explore and Wonka mentions that everything is edible, even the grass.
After explaining about how the waterfall mixes the chocolate he tells the kids to enjoy themselves.
In case you forgot that Mike plays violent games
Veruca spots a tiny little person and Wonka explains who the Oompa Loompas are. They're tiny people from South America who lived in treehouses to avoid the dangerous creatures who would eat them. Their primary source of food was a disgusting green caterpillar, which they tried mixing with anything else they could find. All of which was disgusting. Except for cacao beans, which they loved. Wonka offered to smuggle them into his factory and pay them in cacao beans as long as they worked for him.
Which is technically slavery.
And racism. Don't forget the racism.
Finally, after only 45 minutes of movie, Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river.
Wonka complains about how it will ruin the chocolate.
Well, he complains once. Afterwards he just stands there watching as the pipe drops into the water and sucks Augustus up.
That's it, no reaction whatsoever. The only character to react is Mrs. Gloop.
You'd expect an actor as good as Johnny to, oh I don't know, actually act.
I can't blame Johnny too much though, none of the other characters act at all bothered either, just dryly commenting on Augustus' progress up the pipe.
It's fine for one, maybe two characters to have no reaction to something like this, but none? I'd expect the supposedly kind and pure Charlie to maybe show some modicum of concern, but instead he's distracted by the Oompa Loompa's song and dance number.
Yeah, the Oompa Loompas do a song and dance number while a child is possibly being killed.
Oh, and they're all played by one guy.
Though the song does include a line or two about him not being harmed, they admit that the gears, cogs and crushers might alter him a bit.
Mrs. Gloop is of course concerned about where her son has gone (Although she seemed to have completely forgotten during the song) and Wonka says that he's gone to the fudge room but not to worry, he won't be turned into fudge and sold. The taste would be terrible.
Here's a man who clearly has his priorities straight.
He calls over an Oompa Loompa and gives him instructions to find Augustus. And he gives those instructions in the most patronising manner possible.
Just because someone's from another country, is tiny and never talks, doesn't mean you should talk to him as though he's thick. He clearly understands you.
Wonka's a jerk.
The tour continues on a pink dragon boat crewed by the Oompa Loompas.
Are we sure this isn't a horror movie? Because this is creepy.
As the boat goes along, Wonka is rude to the children because of how short they are (Within earshot of the Oompa Loompas no less) and when Charlie asks if he remembers being a kid, Wonka has a flashback to Halloween as a child.
We find that he had a strained relationship with his father. Can you guess what his dad did for a living? Go on, have a guess.
Freud, eat your heart out.
Yup, the father of the world's greatest chocolatier was a dentist. A dentist who hated chocolate no less. He outright banned all sweets and confectionery from young Willy's life. probably a good thing too, considering that he evidently wasn't a very good dentist.
Were these head contraptions ever a real thing?
If he'd been a good dentist, he would have known that Willy didn't need this ridiculous head thing.  nd he would also have known that sugar is not inherently bad for your teeth, as long as it's in moderation and accompanied by good dental hygiene.
But anyway, Wilbur throws all of the sweets in the fire.
Who knew that chocolate burns with a blue flame?
After the flashback ends Wonka orders the Oompas to go faster. As they do they pass some rooms, which are used to make some bad jokes.
Whipped cream, get it? No, because I was distracted by the animal cruelty.
Once they reach their destination they disembark and enter the inventing room, where Willy shows off his latest ideas, like the everlasting gobstopper.
Don't worry, it's never brought up again.
Instead we get his newly-invented stick of gum (Remember those? Chewing gum used to come in sticks.) which he says contains an entire three course meal. He even has pre-prepared cards explaining what they do. This way, he can expouse the wonders of this gum at any time, like, for instance, when the girl who's been chewing gum the entire time is holding the piece of gum he's talking about.
And he acts surprised when she starts to chew it.
As you all probably know, when she chews it it's all great until she gets to the blueberry pie, which causes her to blow up like a blueberry.
Watch out, she's been turned into a bad CGI effect.
Mrs. Beauregarde of course is more concerned that her daughter can't compete anymore, because she's a horrible person. But then music starts playing and some Oompas bowl into the room.
Everyday they're shuffling.
The Oompas sing a disco song (Complete with Night Fever pose) about Violet's chewing habit, but oddly enough they don't actually say anything bad about it. They just say that her jaw will get stronger and that's why they will do everything they can to save her.
So Mrs. Beauregarde helps the Oompas roll her daughter away and we're left with only three children, who naturally ask him questions, such as "If you hate gum, why do you make it?"
I like this Mike kid, unlike everyone else here he actually uses his brains.
But Charlie asks if Wonka can remember the first candy he ever ate and this triggers another flashback.
Back to when he was a greedy little blighter.
The flashback ends as abruptly as it started and Wonka actually apologises for it.
No apology will ever be enough.
They continue to the nut room where lots of trained squirrels are unwrapping walnuts.
In case you forgot just how big this movie's budget was.
Veruca sees them and thinks they're adorable and demands one, but Wonka says they're not for sale, so Veruca decides to go get one herself.
Naturally, this backfires and she gets dragged away by the squirrels whilst her father can do nothing but watch helplessly.
Isn't context wonderful?
Curse those insurmountable waist high fences.
Wonka says that there's no need to worry because they only light the incinerator on Tuesdays. But Mike helpfully points out that it is Tuesday.
Wonka replies that it's possible that she's merely stuck in the chute and someone might be able to pull her out. Someone like her father.
yep, this version of Wonka guilt trips an old man into jumping into an incinerator.
While the Oompas prance about and sing.
Nice to see this titan of the nut industry go with dignity.
Luckily an Oompa walks up to Wonka and tells him that the inicnerator is broken and so the Salts should have 3 weeks worth of garbage to break their fall.
The remaining children are led to the glass elevator, which is used for a few more sight gags.
And to weed out any latent epileptics in the audience.
This segues into yet another flashback sequence where Willy tells his father that he's going to become a chocolatier. His father warns him that if he leaves then he won't be here when he gets back.
And he meant it.
The flashback ends when Mike says that he wants to pick a room and Wonka agrees. Mike naturally picks the television room.
Personally I would have chosen dessert island.
Wonka explains what his latest invention is. He figured that if pictures can be broken up into particles and beamed across the world, why can't chocolate?
Mike goes into an explanation of exactly why not, but Wonka tells him to shut up and watch.
And indeed, Wonka has invented a machine that can beam chocolate into someone's television screen.
Why do so many bad movies constantly reference better movies?
Mike of course points out what should be frigging obvious, Wonka's invented a teleporter.
But since he's just a kid with poor impulse control (That's really his only sin, being a kid) he decides to teleport himself into the tv. And he's successful.
Less. Definitely less.
Mr. Teevea reaches in and pulls him out, only to be told by Wonka that there's no reverse. So instead he's instructed to take him to the taffy pulling room to be stretched out.
So all four of the horrible kids have been punished in a karmic fashion. The terrible sins of gluttony, greed, impulsiveness and chewing gum.
Ok, so she did have one scene where she was a little mean to Charlie, but she didn't really do much wrong. heck, most of it was her mother pushing her to win the prize.
Thinking about it, she even had the same colour scheme as Andrew from breakfast Club.
So now that all of the kids are gone Wonka asks how many are left.
Gee, I don't know, let's do a quick headcount.
Wonka congratulates Charlie on being the only survivor and exclaims that he's therefor won the extra prize. They bundle into the elevator and go up and out through the ceiling, catching a view of the other kids as they leave.
Everyone of course is pretty miserable about what's happened, with the exception of Violet, who doesn't mind being blue because she's so much more flexible now.
Give it 7 more years and she could make a great career on the internet.
Wonka takes Charlie back to his house, crashing through the ceiling. As they stumble out Wonka explains what the prize is. Charlie has inherited the factory. 
And so there it is, that was Charlie and the Chocolate factory starring Johnny Depp and I have to say that while it was terrible, at least it's over.
Except it actually isn't.
This was my expression when I realised that this movie didn't want to end.
Thanks to his daddy issues, Wonka tells Charlies that he can't bring his family along.
Charlie tells Wonka to shove it, since if he can't bring his family along then he doesn't want to go.
So Wonka leaves, dejected.
The narrator starts giving us the epilogue, where Mr. Bucket gets a new, better paying job fixing the machine that replaced him.
See? Machines are only a threat to your job if you refuse to adapt.
They can afford to put food on the tables again, especially since Joe's up and moving again, which presumably gives Mrs. Bucket some spare time to earn some money. Charlie definitely uses his spare time to earn money, he became a shoe-shiner (making me once again ask when the heck this movie's set).
So is this the end of the movie?
No, because we've still got to deal with Wonka's daddy issues.
This movie's starting to feel like Lord Of The Rings, just end already.
But then we wouldn't have a scene where Wonka is psycho-analysed.
He deals with his problems by stalking an 11 year-old boy.
After a chat, Charlie points out that Wonka won't be able to understand Charlie's love for his family until he discovers how much his father loved him, so they track him down.
Technically he would still have the same address.
So it wasn't just an overly-symbolic flashback? He really did move the entire house?
It gets better, not only is he still alive, his father's still in business.
Don't worry Christopher Lee, you had much better roles before your passing.
Wonka Jr gets his teeth checked and Wonka Sr takes a moment to recognise him. When he does he jokingly berates him for not flossing.
Oh come on, those teeth are whiter than Jimmy Carr's.
So they embrace, Wonka Jr decides to let Charlie's family join him and he officially passes on the factory. Giving us our happy ending as the narrator is finally revealed.
It was an Oompa, what a surprise.
Well, it's a happy ending for me because I'm happy for it to finally be ending.
This movie was terrible. I really don't want to compare it to the original, I would much rather let it stand on it's own merits but it's just not possible. The Gene Wilder version changed so much from the source material that Roald Dahl walked out and I think it may have saved the movie. Dahl's original versions of the characters made Wonka into a horrible jerk and Charlie into a passive waste who only won because he didn't find some stupid way to disqualify himself.
But the biggest problem is Johnny Depp's portrayal of Wonka. I can see what he was going for, the child trapped in an adult's body, but it doesn't work. Wilder's version was more of a child who was forced to grow up and became weary because of it, whereas this version just comes off as immature.
And creepy, very creepy.
So creepy in fact that when SkyOne adapted Hogfather into a live action show, Marc Warren based his version of Teatime on Wonka, keeping the whole child trapped in an adult's body theme, only this was the type of child who would tear the wings off a butterfly and watch it crawl.
He nailed a dog to the ceiling.
I would try to find something that the movie did right, but I'm struggling. The songs weren't very good (We could barely hear the words at times) and the visual style just didn't gel right.
I guess having those few small scenes with the kids being mean to each other did make us like them less, but it was too little to save this movie.

So, next week we continue along with the letter C and I get to watch a much more entertaining movie, starring Jackie Chan.

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