Saturday, 4 November 2006

DVD: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Lowdown: It takes a poor kid with a loving family to remind a sweet rich man what is really important in life.
Conservatives come in many guises. In the USA they are commonly referred to as Republicans, which is Australia, oddly enough, they are known as Liberals.
One of the things the conservatives keep on preaching about is the value and importance of family values. However, there are inherent faults in their arguments: when you ask them what family values they vouch for, it usually comes down to having the wife cook and take care of the children while the husband takes care of the income. And then, in an incredible loop-de-loop, they advocate for all sorts of monetary policies to do with free enterprise and free capitalism, policies that usually come in between a person and his/her family.
Another trait that seems common to conservatives all over the world is their relative lack of respect for the environment. Both George W in the USA and Johnny W in Australia seem to be doing their best to impede anything that might help the environment.
It is those conservatives views that Tim Burton sets out to mock and counter in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a film aimed at children that is more politically charged than the vast majority of adult films.
Based on the Roald Dahl book I've read so many times as a child, the film starts by following a little child called Charlie Bucket. Charlie comes from a poor but loving family: his father is the only income earner, which is hardly enough to sustain Charlie, his parents and both sets of grandparents, all of which share a broken down shack at the edge of town.
Hope arises when Willy Wonka of the world famous Wonka chocolate factory issues five golden tickets allowing their winners to visit his chocolate factory. Tickets are won all over the world by four very spoiled children - children exhibiting the values Burton's favorite conservatives preach for - but then, when all hope seems to fade, Charlie wins the last ticket.
Charlie wants to sell the ticket and help his family out, but the rest of the family convince him that money is not worth much in comparison to a once in a life time visit to the shrine of all good things on earth - Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
The film works very well - you can see a five star film in the making - until the point where Charlie enters the factory with the other spoiled kids and meets up with Johnny Depp (Willie Wonka); that is the point where Tim Burton commences with his usual eccentric routines, which in my opinion greatly detract the film but also make it quite unique.
The film then takes us through a tour of the fantastic chocolate factory - a place where machinery takes second place to natural processes, a place where chocolate is mixed using natural waterfalls and nuts are processed with the help of trained squirrels. As we go through the factory the various spoiled children get themselves out of the way through their own conservative / capitalist values taking a hold of them, and we slowly learn more about Willy Wonka and what drives him - mainly, lack of communication with his father (portrayed magnificently by Saruman, aka Christopher Lee).
As we go along with the plot, Burton pumps his views unto our brains: competitiveness, money and technology don't amount to much if you don't have a loving family at your side. Even the sweetest man in the world - the owner of its most prestigious chocolate factory - is a poor man without his family.
It's just a pity that Burton cannot let go of his eccentric acts - in the form of over the top sets, effects that look somewhere in between animation and reality, and songs that are somewhere in between nice and horrible. Otherwise, this could have been a 5 star film; as it is, it is just a film that should have been a 5 star act. I wonder if kids would like this film.
Best scene: When Charlie wins the golden ticket, only to be immediately attacked by greedy onlookers. He ends up being saved by the black shopkeeper (Is that a coincidence? He's the only black guy in the film). The cinematography of this scene is quite unique in relation to the way the rest of the film looks.
Picture quality: Pretty poor for a film with such production values. Digital artifacts' haven.
Sound quality: Nothing special. No low frequency presence to talk about.
Overall: Somewhere between 3.5 to 4 stars, depending on what you think of Burton's style.

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