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Monday, July 25, 2005

The Chocolate Wars


Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vs. Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory vs. Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

In short: Roald Dahl wrote it, Gene Wilder owned it, and Tim Burton flubbed it.

In long:

The setup: I reread the book a few nights ago, after I saw Burton’s version. I watched Gene Wilder’s version maybe two weeks ago. Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1967. Gene Wilder’s version, from 1971, is called Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory because they were using it as a vehicle to introduce Wonka bars- which it turned out were made to melt on the shelf, not even in your hand, much less your mouth, and so were quickly discontinued. (HAH!!!) Burton’s version- well, you know about that.

As a child I never cared for the book, though I read James and the Giant Peach maybe 5 trillion times and every single Roald Dahl book at least once, including the one about the dad teaching his son how to poach pheasants, and the short story book where a writer picks up a hitchhiker in his Beemer, both of which you’ve probably never heard of because either:

A. you weren’t one of those kids who would walk to school and then hide out under that big tree on the hill and read all day pausing only to watch kids play during recess or to get lunch in the cafeteria-

Or

B. I only THINK Roald Dahl wrote those books. (I refuse to check. I don’t want to ruin the cherished memories if he didn’t write them.)

As an adult I STILL don’t care for the book. It is the suck.

As a child Wilider’s version of the movie freaked me out to the extent that I could never remember the movie itself, only the fear it generated. Likewise, I read The Shining when I was 10, and I could never remember what happened until I reread it when I was 15. All I remembered of The Shining was that at one point my parents were out bowling, I had the TV on, both our (outside dogs) black lab and collie mutt flanking me, the soundtrack to Star Wars blaring on my parents record player, and that I was huddled in a corner of the living room that gave the dogs long lines of sight while hiding me from being seen through any windows. I can remember NOTHING of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which I suppose means it scared me MORE than The Shining. (I know I saw it, btw, because my parents have told me so.)

As an adult I LOVE the movie. I loved Wilder’s version of Wonka- I love the Satan-ish bad guy (who is really only tempting the kids because Wonka tells him to and does not exist in the book) I love the Oompah Loompahs for their nifty dance moves and clever lyrics “You’ll get no- You’ll get no- You’ll get noooooo commercials!”

Depp’s version of Wonka is okay. It might even be good if you didn’t compare it to Wonka’s, er, I mean Wilder’s. (I left that mistake in to show how totally Gene owned the part) But- as for Burton's movie- no… No it is the suck. It is the suck the suck the suck. The Oompah Loompahs are clones- they are all the same guy- and that guy is not some uber talented dude who dances and sings unbelievably well- a newly discovered great singing and dancing talent or something, he’s just a short thesuck actor who can neither dance nor sing. So Burton decides to turn the tribe of Oompah Loompahs into a tribe of clones- no males or females, and then to use special effects to try to make them seem the size they are supposed to be according to the book (knee-high). But if you are going to use special effects to make them small why pick a dude with a dwarfish build? Why not pick a bunch of super beautiful, graceful, talented singer/dancers? Why not have the cast of Fame, you know? And then, why- aw… there is too much. The movie is the suck. The suck the suck the suck. Burton blew it.

Verdict:
Gene Wilder kung phoos both Dahl and Burton with single blows. In the fight off for second Dahl guillotines Burton, choking him senseless.

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