When there's a remake or sequel about to hit theaters I usually like to watch the original or first installment again in order to revisit a movie I like and be able to accurately compare the two. So, with the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp led re-imagining of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set to hit next week I thought I would rewatch the beloved Gene Wilder version I so enjoyed as a youth.
I must have watched this three times a week when I was a kid, thanks to my grandparents having a VCR and a tape of the movie. My brother and I would sit mesmerized by it day in and day out. When the widescreen DVD came out a couple years ago, I snapped it up, since I hadn't seen it in it's entirety, much less in widescreen format, in years.
I was struck, much as I have been the last couple times I've watched it, by how *not* a kids movie this is. There's too much intentional cruelty, the humor is too biting and the undertones are too dark for kids. That's not to say they won't enjoy it. I always did and am not (yet) molesting collies or anything. But kids, while they enjoy the brightly colored Chocolate Factory with its ridiculous inventions and the possiblity of a lifetime of chocolate, won't get many of the grace notes Wilder provides.
Watch his eyes as Augustus Gloop gets stuck in the tube and Wonka says, "The suspense is terrible...I hope it lasts." He really hopes it lasts. Behind the facade of concern he's genuinely enjoying watching the chubby kid about to get shot through the tube. Or when Mrs. Gloop asks him to do something and he looks around and says flatly, "Help. Police. Murder." As a kid I don't think I got what kind of character Wilder was trying to create, but I do now. He's giving these kids, including Charlie Bucket, the parental authority they lack in their lives. Mr. Salt won't shut Veruca's endless whining down, so Wonka allows her to learn the hard way - by potentially following her selfishness down into the furnace.
That's ultimately what I think the movie is about: authority. Charlie gets the same kind of kick out of seeing these uncontrolled kids get their due, and that's why he was chosen by Wonka. He did have the control that comes from responsible parenting and family and so was able to see the errors the others made and know that they deserved what they got.
It'll be interesting to see what Depp brings to the character (other than the alleged and denied carictature of Michael Jackson) and what Burton, famous for his daddy-issue themed movies, brings to the tone of the movie and the legacy of the story.