2005 Certificate: pg

Synopsis

Master fantasist Tim Burton proves the ideal choice to add a little 21st century flavour to Roald Dahl's children's classic. Following Gene Wilder's much-loved lead, Johnny Depp delivers a deliciously different take on reclusive confectioner Willy Wonka while wide-eyed Freddie Highmore engages as Charlie Bucket, one of five lucky youngsters who receive a personal tour of Wonka's sugar-coated empire. Dark and deeply satisfying, it's one of Burton's tastiest offerings.

Director

  • Tim Burton

Cast

  • Johnny Depp

  • Freddie Highmore

  • Helena Bonham Carter

  • Christopher Lee

  • Noah Taylor

  • James Fox

  • David Kelly

Review

Children's writer Roald Dahl's defining quality was never talking down to his young readers or insulting their intelligence.

And in Hollywood maverick Tim Burton he has found a director that fully understands that golden rule with an enthralling adaptation of the 1964 classic.

Charlie Bucket (Highmore) is a good-hearted guttersnipe who lives in a tumble-down hovel with his loving parents and grandparents in the shadow of the vast Wonka Chocolate Family.

No-one has set foot in the huge plant for fifteen years after the reclusive owner Willy Wonka (Depp) sacked the workforce for giving his secrets away.

Suddenly, it's announced that five lucky children who find golden tickets hidden inside Wonka bars will be allowed into Willy's inner sanctum.

The winners are German glutton Augustus Gloop, spoiled British brat Veruca Salt, ultra-competitive American champion gum-chewer Violet Beauregarde and a war games-obsessed yob of the X-Box generation.

The fifth and final recipient is...Charlie, who discovers the golden ticket in a bar of Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first hit the big screen in 1971 but Depp effortlessly banishes the memory of Gene Wilder's Wonka with a sinisterly genial portrayal of a man-boy crushed by his father's disapproval.

There's something of the night about him as he eerily escorts the obnoxious tykes around the factory, each of them despatched in increasingly ingenious ways as his workers - the diminutive Oompa-Loompas - launch into a song and dance routine.

Dahl's strong storyline and darkly surreal atmosphere are beautifully served by Burton's off-kilter vision and a splendid looking movie which reins back on the CGI effects in favour of traditional hand-painted sets.

Highmore is cute but never cloying as the decent Charlie while his grim fellow factory tourists are played with relish by the young cast in a strongly moral story which is probably better enjoyed by older kids.

Cadbury World was never like this.

Tim Evans