Monday, July 25, 2005

Today is the day of my oft-anticipated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory review, although I'm sure that most of you are just happy that the review will push Friday's Arachnid Sex ads below the fold.

There are generally three majority opinions concerning the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

  • The movie has been elevated to a state of deified perfection because you saw it every week as a kid. Any new version is automatically blasphemy of the highest order. (I had a friend at Tech whose away message was always "Oompa loompa dippity doo, I've got another puzzle for you").
  • The movie was good enough, but no better than any other kids movie made in the 1970s. I agree with this opinion.
  • Your parents, in a misguided attempt to prevent future acid trips, banned the movie from your television, so you never saw it (but you are still mentally scarred from watching mannequins come to life on Today's Special or freaky marionette birds speak in psychedelic sonar on Pinwheel ).

A fourth opinion by John Roberts Jr. was recently uncovered, stating that "while I disagree with the status of the movie as a cult classic, it is not my place to overturn a decision which has been thirty years in the making". The URI! Zone has no use for such non-inflammatory opinions, so it will be ignored.

I admit that I've only seen the original movie once, in 2001, and the people who I was watching it with fast forwarded through one of the slow songs that they didn't like. I read the books over and over though, as I am wont to do.

Charlie opened with a standard cache of previews for romantic comedies and kids movies. There's a new claymation movie in the works from Tim Burton, Corpse Bride which looks like it'll be worthwhile, sharing the same style as Nightmare Before Christmas. There's also a feature-length Wallace & Gromit coming out (the claymation precursor to Chicken Run). Finally, don't miss THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED on September 30 (capital letters added to emphasize GREATNESS). It's a movie about golf, and obviously produced by Disney -- only with the magic of the Magic Kingdom could you ever hope to turn any form of non-mini-golf into the GREATEST GAME on Earth. It's a GREAT movie with GREAT skills, and it's gonna do GREAT.

As the real movie began, it was apparent that this was a Tim Burton reinterpretation of the story, and not just a revamp of the old movie. The setting and the cast were perfect, and the little touches were pure Burton. He generally stuck to the story as we know it, but deepened the back story through flashbacks (something that worked more often than it failed in this case). The one disappointment I had was the Elfman score -- the trembling strings and wordless choir arrangements were nothing we haven't heard before, and could have easily been cut wholesale from any earlier Elfman score. It definitely fit the movie, but it seems like he's turning into the John Williams of Burton movies. Ironically, this cookie-cutter score first reared its head as the camera panned over a chocolate-bar stamping machine which was creating hundreds of identical candies. Elfman probably laughed about this all the way to the bank.

The last time Johnny Depp fell this far into his character, it was his cross of Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew in Pirates of the Caribbean: Yet Another Movie with a Colon in the Title. This time around, he seems to be channeling Michael Jackson, with liberal doses of the stereotypical mad scientist. The result is a little endearing, but mostly creepy -- definitely not someone you'd ask to watch your kids for you. Much of the edge in the movie relies wholly on his excellent performance. However, for me the star of the show was Deep Roy, who played the part of every single Oompa Loompa (Deep Roy was also the guy in the top hat with the snail in The Neverending Story, and some random musical muppet in Return of the Jedi). Even if you hate the rest of the movie, the dance/music numbers starring Roy are worth watching -- both for the technical achievement and the camp factor. Instead of singing the same song four times, Deep Roy dances through four decades of pop music styles, doing the appropriate dance moves for each era.

Finally, Charlie closed with a trip to Chili's where we ordered some nachos. Apparently Chili's picks their nachos fresh off the plant and flies them in from Mexico, as we didn't get them for another forty-five minutes. The server apologized profusely and offered a free dessert in recompense. In fact, the cheesecake was so free ("as free as the wind blows", even) that it took them another half hour to catch it and deliver it to our table. By this point it was after 10:30 and time to go home. This is just a cautionary tale -- your ordering times after watching the movie may vary.

Overall, I would recommend seeing this movie, regardless of your feelings on the original. It's strong enough to stand on its own as an entirely separate entity, and there's plenty of bones thrown to old viewers.


My web host has been having some serious issues recently, slowing down connections and making my site time out quite frequently. They plan on upgrading their servers over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, please try back later if the site seems to be unresponsive. Sorry for the inconvenience.

UPDATE: Peeping tom in the outhouse was just looking for a lost ring, and happened to be wearing waders.
Mr. Floatie is the mascot for People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, or POOP.
A very strange, but possibly symbolic advertisement for the next season of Lost (12MB MPEG)

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