Thursday, August 11, 2005

Missing the point entirely

(Listening to: Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger)

"Why is everything here completely pointless?" -- Mike Teavee to Willy Wonka

It's a question I'd like answered.

I saw the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Monday, and holy god what a horrible disaster. The buzz was that the film would be more faithful to the book than the previous adaptation, and it several ways it is -- the squirrels were back as the cause of Veruca's demise, for example, rather than the golden egg machine.

But apparently the copies of the novel Tim Burton and screenwriter John August have are missing the final chapter or two, because they swerve from the original and tack on their own cheesy ending. And believe me when I say this stuff is pulled directly out their ass: Wonka suddenly has big issues with his father, a subplot left unexplored (and unmentioned) in the book. So the entire point of the story -- the bad children being punished for their vices and Charlie getting rewarded for his kind and humble nature -- is thrown into the chocolate river, and instead becomes a lecture about the importance of family, a message which is delivered with surprisingly hamfisted clumsiness.

Now, the story has never been subtle -- even as a kid, I understood the point Dahl was trying to make with his book. But at least his original message was supported by the rest of the story. In the new version, though, the other children who accompany Charlie into serve no purpose other than to fill screen time. Really, you could have deleted those four kids, skipped from Charlie entering the factory right to the last twenty minutes, and the only thing you'd miss would be a lot of awful songs by the Oompa Loompas (Danny Elfman wrote the songs, taking lyrics from the book, but that didn't matter because you couldn't understand a word they said anyway). We also would have missed Depp's odd, awkward performance as Wonka -- certainly not one of the miracles we've come to expect from Cap'n Sparrow. His Wonka -- and the whole movie -- just aren't any fun. At all.

I guess there's another question we need answered: "Why is the rum gone?"

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