Directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Deep Roy, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Annasophia Robb, Philip Wiegratz, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Christopher Lee, Adam Godley and Franziska Troegner.
The 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl's 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' became so etched in the public memory that it seems unthinkable that anyone would want to recreate what was widely considered to be near perfection, as fantasy films go. But 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' proves that no matter how scary the territory, any great film can be made even greater with a mix of the right ingredients.
Add to your stirring pot acclaimed director Tim Burton ('Big Fish') and the immensely talented, and hysterically quirky, leading man Johnny Depp (who previously collaborated with Burton on 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Ed Wood') and you've got a very promising starting point.
What 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' doesn't do is to try to imitate the previous film so much that comparisons are very readily drawn. Of course, the movie stays true to Dahl's writings but small elements from the first film are dropped in favour of exploring new possibilities, with techniques such as flashbacks used to delve deeper into the mindset of recluse Willy Wonka.
For anyone who has somehow managed to escape the Wonka phenomenon (possibly by completely switching off to the world of television on Christmas Day when endless reruns are being lapped up), here's how the story goes. Genius chocolate-maker Willy Wonka (Depp) has shut himself off from the outside world, making the most amazing candy bars in his technologically advanced workshops, but never straying outside the factory walls.
Out of the blue Wonka decides to invite five lucky children into his chocolate wonderland, for a tour of how the factory works. The children who are lucky enough to find the five golden tickets that Wonka has placed in random bars of chocolate will be the privileged ones. Now, as the world is engrossed in Wonka mania a young boy named Charlie Bucket (Highmore) can only dream of winning the trip.
Living in a lop-sided house with his mother (Bonham Carter), father (Taylor) and four grandparents, Charlie's endearing innocence lies mainly in the fact that he doesn't really seem to realise how hard he has things. His family are struggling to make ends meet and chocolate is a luxury they can't afford, which makes Charlie's surprise win all the sweeter when he somehow lands a precious ticket, and decides to take his Grandpa Joe (Kelly) on the factory tour with him.
Charlie and Grandpa Joe are joined by the most monstrous group of children and their equally hideous parents on tour day. Augustus Gloop (Wiegratz) is a gluten, whose greed knows no bounds, as is evident in his appearance. Spoilt-rotten Veruca Salt (Winter) is a daddy's girl, whose demands get more outrageous by the minute. Violet Beauregarde (Robb) is the champion gum-chewer, martial-arts expert and a champion in the self-confidence stakes. And last but by no means least is Mike Teavee (Fry), a video-games addict and utter know-it-all, who provides a lot of the comic moments during the trip.
The inside of Wonka's factory is wonderfully brought to life, with superb attention to detail in the edible Chocolate Room. Elaborate, colourful and, most importantly, made up of the stuff of children's dreams, nothing is spared in the creation of Wonka's wonderland.
With a slightly altered appearance, the Oompa Loompas return to sing and dance to the chants of Dahl's creation, once again wrapping up moral lessons in some funky moves and PVC catsuits! Deep Roy (who plays all the Oompa Loompas) injected much comedy into the many characters he played, with nice twists introduced by the variety of different roles the Oompa Loompas now take on in the factory, from shrinks to telly addicts.
But enough cannot be said about Johnny Depp, who relishes the weird and phobic nature of Wonka, creating a character that begins as disturbing and develops into a very charismatic human being, who carries with him the scars of a fraught childhood, as is well illustrated through his numerous flashbacks. The young Freddie Highmore puts his very own stamp on Charlie, who comes off as a lot more innocent this time round – and the capable David Kelly teams up to complete a very genuine double-act.
None of the magic of Dahl's superb book has been lost in this sweet, yet bitterly-tinged, remake of a sensational film. Bursting with comedy, colourful characters and all the magic of childhood, 'Charlie and Chocolate Factory' more than meets expectations.