Fantasy Adventure. Acclaimed director Tim Burton brings his vividly imaginative style to the beloved Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka (Depp) and Charlie, a good-hearted boy from a poor family who lives in the shadow of Wonka's extraordinary factory. Long isolated from his own family, Wonka launches a worldwide contest to select an heir to his candy empire. Five lucky children, including Charlie, draw golden tickets from Wonka chocolate bars and win a guided tour of the legendary candy-making facility that no outsider has seen in 15 years. Dazzled by one amazing sight after another, Charlie is drawn into Wonka's fantastic world in this astonishing andenduring story.
Mixed reviews and creepy comparisons to Michael Jackson notwithstanding, Tim Burton's splendidly imaginative adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would almost surely meet with Roald Dahl's approval. The celebrated author of darkly offbeat children's books vehemently disapproved of 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (hence the change in title), so it's only fitting that Burton and his frequent star/collaborator, Johnny Depp, should have another go, infusing the enigmatic candyman's tale with their own unique brand of imaginative oddity. Depp's pale, androgynous Wonka led some to suspect a partial riff on that most controversial of eternal children, Michael Jackson, but Burton's film is too expansively magnificent to be so narrowly defined. While preserving Dahl's morality tale on the hazards of indulgent excess, Burton's riotous explosion of color provides a wondrous setting for the lessons learned by Charlie Bucket (played by Freddie Highmore, Depp's delightful costar in Finding Neverland), as he and other, less admirable children enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Wonka's confectionary wonderland. Elaborate visual effects make this an eye-candy overdose (including digitally multiplied Oompa-Loompas, all played by diminutive actor Deep Roy), and the film's underlying weirdness is exaggerated by Depp's admirably risky but ultimately off-putting performance. Of course, none of this stops Burton's Charlie from being the must-own family DVD of 2005's holiday season, perhaps even for those who staunchly defend Gene Wilder's portrayal of Wonka from 34 years earlier. --Jeff Shannon