Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

We went to see Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yesterday. I know this is complete sacrilege, but I liked the storyline better in this version than in the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory version. There were more satisfying explanations for everything than the original, especially for the ending, which wrapped the story up more neatly, I thought, than the first.
I also liked that Charlie’s parents were more visible and central figures in this version, and that there was some explanation of how his family came to be in the state they’re in, why the factory is run by Oompa Loompas, and how Wonka came to have such extraordinary artistic visions. All of those little storyline details make for a much richer plot than the other movie, and I have to give in and say I like this movie more, which I certainly never expected. I love smart plots.
My friend Lori discusses the controversy over the idea that Depp may have been channeling Michael Jackson in his portrayal of Willy Wonka. I tend to agree with her assessment that he really isn’t, mainly because Wonka seems to hate kids. I’d go further and say that Michael Jackson is an overtly sexual person that Wonka never seems to be.
And Wonka seems to have a strong moral streak running through him; he has strong beliefs about greed, gluttony and other negative human behaviors personified by the kids and their parents, and isn’t afraid to punish them for their behavior, or to reward Charlie for his. Each kid does something that he’s specifically told not to do; not minding adults is a big issue for Wonka.
I thought the touch where Mike TeaVee points out that the Oompa Loompa’s songs seems to be pretty well plotted out and rehearsed was excellent; he caught on that perhaps Wonka was planning every step of the seemingly chaotic and random journey, and knew exactly how each child would react to parts of his factory. What’s interesting, and very subtle, was how Wonka then let Mike pick what his fate was; Mike pushed the button to the Television Room himself, and jumped into the transport device on his own. Too bad Mike didn’t remember what he’d already figured out about Wonka’s tour. Or maybe he just thought he could beat Wonka at his own system. Silly Mike.
I was bothered by the idea though that this seems to be yet another storyline where a child who has a strained-to-nonexistent relationship with his father grows up to be very effeminate and fastidious. There also seemed to be a connection drawn between childhood Willy and Charlie, who seem to be very similar young boys. It seemed like there was an implication that Willy is what Charlie would be if he didn’t have the nurturing influence of a loving family, and that bothers me.
I really don’t believe that’s a true cause-effect relationship (especially not with the gay men I know) and it bothers me that this is an example that could reinforce the idea for biased people who look for connections like that.

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