"Wilie Wonka" Review
In my opinion, this is the biggest Hollywood failure in a long time, and Johnny Depp's performance is as bad as any I've ever seen. It's amazing he still has a career. I mean, I love the guy and I love his gutsy choices, but his performance is just obnoxious, inconsistent and pointlessly eccentric. His face never ceases to be beautiful to watch, but all of his line readings seem to be designed as a private joke between himself and his director.
The device of using one digitally multiplied Oompa Loompa to represent minions is more insulting than director Tim Burton intended. Perhaps if he had not chosen an Indian actor to play the obsequious, ubiquitous little servants, I would have been less uncomfortable. As it is, though, with the strong British presence (Charlie Bucket and his family, the imperious Veruca Salt, the unseen narrator, Willie Wonka's father), I couldn't help but see the Oompa Loompa as a symbol of colonization and slavery. I hated the stupid Bollywood dance numbers, which are sure to date the movie in a way that I'm sure Tim Burton will regret in very short order. One of the saddest things about this film, in fact, is how much of it is so squarely located in the early 21st century, especially the jarringly "hip" expressions used by Wonka's character. Contrast that with the timeless appeal of the original, which is going to be just as fresh for my nephews as it was for me, despite the lack of CGI effects.
This film seems to represent everything wrong with our society today: unnecessarily over-technologized, soulless, jejeune, and substituting treacly sentimentalism for warmth and whining self-indulgence for undertanding. The character of Willie Wonka -- so wonderfully and charismatically incarnated by Gene Wilder in the original -- has gone from a wise madman with an industry and personal legacy to protect, to a spaced-out wackjob who just needs his daddy's love in order to keep making great candy. I couldn't have been left colder by Depp's choices.
It's the perfect film for the Bush era: the tale of a son whose abusive father doesn't approve of him -- so he leaves home in a huff of rebellious rejection, builds an empire (apparently by the servitude of an oppressed underclass) and eventually lets bratty children destroy themselves under his watch, all tranq'd out on sugar, repressed hostility and ego. Note the difference between the line of dialogue in the original:"I was waiting for a child I could trust" and in the re-make: "I was looking for the least rotten child." Times sure have changed since 1970.
I know you'll think I'm over-analyzing but you have to understand that my lower back is in agony and that's what happens.