Director Tim Burton has always struggled with finding that delicate balance between a great story and a great way to tell a story. The closest he ever came to achieving this was with his previous two Johnny Depp productions – 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Ed Wood'. Unfortunately, his take on Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the chocolate factory' falls short of the flair of his best work and is actually one of the more inferior remakes of recent memory, joining the ranks of his failed attempt at revamping 'Planet of the apes' from a few years ago.
From the moment it starts, you know that this is an entirely different film from the first one. Though the basic structure is the same – reclusive chocolateer, Willy Wonka, places golden tickets inside the wrappers of his chocolate bars for five lucky children, who eventually win the highly sought after opportunity to visit his astounding factory – there are also a few changes from the original. Some of these add more volume to the story, such as prime protagonist Charlie Bucket (ever impressive Freddie Highmore) having a father (Noah Taylor), Grandpa Joe being a former worker at Wonka's factory and Charlie's home town being cold and snowy instead of warm and sunny. Others, such as flashbacks to Wonka's childhood and the exploration of his fractured relationship with his dentist father (Christopher Lee) are signature Burton moves that seem tiring, needless and quite frankly, redundant by now, given how many variations of it have already been used by the director to invoke sympathy for his character.
Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka is neither memorable nor comparable to the temperate performance of Gene Wilder in the original, whose Wonka was a sly, shrewd, somewhat crazy yet still likeable human being. Depp's version is deliberately creepy, unlikable and somewhat devoid of human characteristics. His odd, peculiar, almost self-aware disposition actually had a distancing affect on me and I couldn't find anything pleasant or amiable about him – and this too in a film aimed primarily at children.
While it is clear that Burton remains a good (and at most times) a highly original storyteller he is still at best an average film maker, incapable of putting everything he has in his head to good use as a motion picture. The end creation is formed with the perfect symphony of art direction, set designs and special effects, but all the money in the world can't buy this film that one frail element needed for it to work completely – warmth. The end result can best be summed up in a line uttered by one of the children while visiting the factory – 'why is everything here so completely pointless!' - Faizan Rashid