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July 26, 2005

At the Movies

by Ron Hogan

To be honest, my first reaction to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory trailers a few months ago was not positive. In fact, I was convinced that Tim Burton had managed to come up with yet another in the string of floppy remakes of classic '70s films. But the reviews were promising, so Mrs. Beatrice and I gave it a whirl--and I ended up liking it a lot. Depp's interpretation of Wonka becomes more supportable when viewed in its entirety rather than choppy excerpts, and though I'm not entirely won over by the backstory (even with Christopher Lee), I found the film on the whole very enjoyable, especially Danny Elfman's songs for Roald Dahl's original lyrics--much, much better than the original Oompa Loompa tunes.

Paul Dini, who's written for most of the animated series based on DC Comics characters since Batman debuted in 1992, disagrees. "Though the filmmakers insisted they were keeping closer to Roald Dahl's original book than the 1971 film, they forgot one key fact," he says, "the same one the first flick's creators ignored. In the book Willy Wonka is an old man, sort of an aged sprite if I remember correctly." That is in fact why Fred Astaire actively sought the role of Wonka the first time around, but the producers thought he was too old, which is how, after a series of other fascinating prospects (Joel Grey? Spike Milligan?), 37-year-old Gene Wilder got the part.

Dini has other detailed criticisms of the Depp Wonka that bear serious consideration--he hasn't dislodged the great time I had watching the movie, but he's certainly given me something to think about.

Oh, and one of the trailers was for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so we've got that to look forward to; I'm holding out hope that the Mike Newell who directed it is the one who did Donnie Brasco and Amazing Grace and Chuck, not the one who made Pushing Tin and Mona Lisa Smile (yes, yes, I know--it's a rhetorical device). Meanwhile, Mrs. Beatrice ordered Half-Blood Prince from, and though it arrived late last week she's got first crack at it, so I'm biding my time. I've heard something of what happens, but I don't want to hear any more!

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