Thursday, December 29, 2005

"Wilie Wonka" Review

I just saw the last hour of the re-make of "Willie Wonka" and I'm amazed at how atrocious it is. Even the Danny Elfman music is either stupid or uninspired, and I love Danny Elfman!

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.


Blogger Wally Nut said...

I cannot really argue with the stuff you are saying about the movie, but I really liked it anyway. It is the genuine oddness of it that I liked. As the pirate, Depp pulled off the role as one who is just slightly brain damaged, and in Wonka, it is the surealism of it that captivated me, how although predictable in one sense, it is always just "off" a little, and I suspect, with tongue always firmly in cheek. -- and I feel for you as you did for me with the back issue. I send loving healing energy to you. Blessings.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

I see what you're saying, but I still much prefer the Depp version. The Wilder version was just way too sugary sweet for this Dahl fan.

The dentist bit was indeed tiresome and one more example of Burton's weird thing about fathers, but I thought Burton's decision to give Violet Beauregard and Mike Tevee actual personalities did much to improve them.

And I'm sorry, Wilder can sugarcoat it all he wants and make it seem all sweet and OK, but there IS something freaky about a man who builds a palace of candy and just wants to share it with one special child.


Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

I haven't seen the remake, but the original does hold up well after all these years. Gene Wilder, however, did not strike me as sweet at all, but rather a bit disturbed and even a little cruel, when he says all those mean things to Charlie and his grandfather - then suddenly says, SURPRISE, Just kidding!!

I haven't seen the remake because JD's smile in the ads gave me the creeps. And that hairdo. He looked like that superhero costume designer from The Incredibles, minus the glasses.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I agree. Wilder was hardly sweet and sugar-coated. He goes completely psycho during the last confrontation with Charlie and the previous boat ride (a scene that truly upset the child actors while filming it, according to their DVD commentary). For me, his cold detachment during the demise of his various young visitors was perfectly true to Roald Dahl. Johnny Depp so underplayed the sinister nature of Willie Wonka that he came across merely as weird, not at ALL believable as a great mad genius.

And while I did appreciate some of the character development of the second screenplay,I was totally unable to connect to a totally animated Violet Beauregard-as-blueberry, or to a Mike TeeVee who left the factory as a piece of animated taffy. To have to show the children leaving the factory at all was, for me, the most sugar-coated mistake of Burton's grand failure. I prefer to be left wondering if those kids made it out alive!!

Finally, the thing was so bloated it seemed much more an exercise in "Here's Another Really Cool Scene" than in storytelling.


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