Thursday, May 31, 2007

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Tim Burton perfectly captures and encapsulates in a two-hour film the euphoria I felt at ten, riding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World. The attraction is long gone now, just like my childhood, replaced with bigger and bolder amusements to please the modern-day Mike Teevee and Veruca Salt. In fact technology aside, spiritually at least, "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" was shot some time between the seventies and eighties as if the director himself had been locked away from innovation like his protagonist. (Johnny Depp takes his Willy Wonka role as seriously as he had Hunter S. Thompson, painting a portrait of a disturbed and emotionally-arrested man living without human contact for decades.) From the It’s A Small World rip-off greeting the factory’s guests, to Mike Teevee’s transformation at the hands of a "2001: A Space Odyssey" homage, to the Oompa Loompas masquerading in a Van Halen video, to Violet and her mother’s terry cloth sweatsuits, to Danny Elfman’s return to his roots with an Oingo Boingo inspired score – audience members of Tim Burton’s age are taken on a Space Mountain ride through our collective kid-to-teen years when cheesy artifice was part of the appeal, not something to be digitally enhanced. This movie is a love letter to those adults who can still recall sitting in front of our television sets, awaiting the launch of MTV like the first rocket to the moon, the last pre-technology generation to exist without the Internet. We are all Tim Burton/ Willy Wonka, watching our fragile childhoods reduced to melted plastic like the faux Small World, holding onto our live squirrels – while trying to embrace the possibility of digitized Oompa Loompas.

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