Monday, August 08, 2005


From the time I saw the first trailer and caught sight of the first movie poster, I had no desire to see this film. But you see, I live with the world's foremost Johnny Depp fan. Were she not married to me, my wife would be Mrs. Depp. At least in her dreams anyway.

Because of this, I am subjected to months of anticipation and wistful, dreamy gazing-off at nothing about "My Johnny!," before any new Depp film hits the theatres. In the case of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there was none of my usual grudging agreement to support my wife's addiction. As I recall, my first (and certainly not last) words on the subject were, "He looks like a girl."

For months now, she's planned to see this with her closest girlfriend. Girls night out and all that. With her back in town all last week, she scheduled this little outing for Friday night and invited another girlfriend along with her mom. Girls night out indeed, but with one small wrinkle.

My wife and her mother were scheduled to leave Phoenix on Southwest Airlines at 5:00 p.m. Saturday, so Friday night was the last evening to spend any time with her at all before leaving. As told me by my mother-in-law, "She doesn't want to not be with you."

How do you say no to that?

So there I sat with these four women set to watch a kid's movie whose star is the focus of my wife's most secretest of fantasies. And much to my surprise, enjoying myself the whole way through.

Director Burton has tweaked things enough to make this dissimilar from the 70's version so this is no re-make but Burton's re-telling of the Roald Dahl story. Burton also, as he did in The Nightmare before Christmas, straddles the line between dark and disturbing and comically sweet.

Charlie has some seemingly disturbing elements. As documented in many a review, the parallels between Depp's Wonka and a certain former music mega-star are striking. Yet everytime it seems the film might fall too far into it's own weirdness, it is pulled back by some equally sweet or funny moment between Wonka and one of the children or parents.

Going in I didn't expect to like it and, in fact, I didn't want to like it.

Yet I found the whole thing strangely entertaining and laughed throughout. Most especially at Burton's ode-to-2001. Watching the Chocolate Monolith rise into the large and strange machinery that will transform it into a part of the TV picture across the room, there to replace the monolith so feared by the primitive apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey to the strains of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" is almost surreal for any who pick up on the gag.

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