Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory d. Tim Burton, 2005

I write grudgingly about this film: one of the worst auto-criticisms possible - and pretty much the only thing I have to say about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - is that a film's point is muddled. Part social commentary, part reminiscence for The Way Things Were, and part indictment of the youth today, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory simply has too much on its plate, & attempts to tackle that Too Much w/ utensils far inadequate for the task.

Burton's film is less a remake of the 70's acid trip Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and more an adaptation of Roald Dahl's original parable. The children that tour Willy Wonka's elusive chocolate factory - a fat German kid, a couple spoilt rich American girls, one television addict-cum-technological savant, and a competition-driven bubblegum aficionado - all represent something that Dahl, by way of John August (screenwriter), by way of Tim Burton, find reprehensible among the next generation. Or, if you're a softhearted optimist, these demi-princes(ses) are moral road signs; animate warnings against the perils of modern life. The fat German, Augustus Gloop, is gluttony. His unwavering desire for choc-o-lot, a desire that leads to his storyline doom, is just the sort of thing Dahl/August/Burton hates. A kid with that type of an appetite, excess that has no concern for others, has no place in Wonka's land. Ditto for the competitive greed of Violet Beauregarde. Her self-centered world is one not of candy, but of competition in which the spoils go to the victor and rest get screwed. The best of these broad character sketches is Mike Teavee, the techno-whiz. He stands as an indictment of mass media & the bile-ridden programming of television, radio, newspapers, et cetera. His pointed jabs against the mass media outlets that influence this generation are poignant, effective, and timely to the nth.

And then this: "Candy doesn't need to have a point." (Or something to that extent; the exact wording escapes me at the moment, and I'm too hung-up on myself, competition, laziness, gluttony, and chocolate to do anything about it later.) Wait: what? The film totters in-between this Generation Now indictment and general state of ambivalence up until the moment at which we realize Willy Wonka isn't such a great guy. To recap: a) Children, don't be like these b) But don't worry, either, cause there's no point to what we're saying and c) The candyman's bad. I reiterate: what? There is absolutely no room for cohesion (or coherence) in this mess. There definitely is a point. Too many, in fact: points abound in spades, but none are clear enough to do any damage.

A handy tie could connect pts. c & d, implicating Willy Wonka as The Man, the guy responsible for the malaise and distaste within the Youth Today, but that would be spreading the Mike Teevee/anti-corporation thread a little too thin. So the only path of recourse is my lame knee-jerk criticism: muddled. So many threads abound - and any one of them, if focused, could make a good film - but they're all bandied about in such a casual manner that none can be taken seriously.