Charley & The Chocolate Factory:
A Likely Fake Script
Charley & The Chocolate Factory A Likely Fake Script By Mike White. I used to think that Tim Burton was a phenomenal visionary and capable director. I loved Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure...
I used to think that Tim Burton was a phenomenal visionary and capable director. I loved Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. However, Burton has made some mighty missteps. The biggest has to be his misguided remake of The Planet of the Apes. POTA stands a good chance of being topped by his upcoming reworking of Roald Dahl’s Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. Penned by Burton’s Big Fish screenwriter John August, fans of the first big screen take on Dahl’s book, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, will be sorely disappointed by this unneeded remake.
Admittedly, Willy Wonka is not a perfect film. It doesn’t kick in until Gene Wilder hits the screen to escort the five winners in to tour his factory. Likewise, August’s script (dated 2/17/03) drags quite a bit as we stick with the cloying Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) and his drab life. Charley’s only joy comes from his daily trips to Mr. Pratchett’s candy shoppe. While never having enough money to purchase anything, Charley manages to not annoy the shit out of Pratchett while endlessly opining about the activities and business practices of the Wonka Factory across the way.
Home life for Charley is familiar. Like Willy Wonka, his toothpaste tube capping father is mysteriously missing but his four bedridden grandparents are in force. The only one with any personality is Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) who comes across as being a far more sympathetic character than Charley. His mother (Helena Bonham Carter) remains a dour cleaning woman. But, hey, at least she doesn’t sing "Cheer Up, Charley."
Yes, the new Charlie will be bereft of musical numbers, though the Oompa Loompas still expound a bit of mocking free verse after Charley’s fellow golden ticket winners are dispatched (as they do in Dahl’s book). Once inside the factory, the children are informed that they are now participants in a contest: the first person to make it through the factory by 5 o’clock will win a lifetime supply of chocolate. The greedy, spoiled, gluttonous, and slothful kids that accompany Charley on his tour aren’t directly removed from the proceedings due to their own foibles. So, while Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) still sinks into the bottom of Wonka’s chocolate river, it’s now during a five-way boat race!
The other challenges are equally lame and sometimes surprisingly spontaneous. When the group encounters Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drink a contest ensues: a race to see who can get back down the factory floor the fastest after lifting themselves high into the air. This scene presents a few problems. Completely missing from Dahl’s book, the scene of Charley and Grandpa Joe sneaking a few swigs of Fizzy Lifting Drink in Willy Wonka conveyed the only instance of the goody-two-shoes character embracing the fun and mischievousness to which children are entitled. The change in Charlie means that our hero always abides restrictions and is as far removed from mischief as he is from mirth. Additionally, this scene in Charlie includes a few up-the-skirt jokes that seem completely out of place.
Yes, this Charley adheres to the rules, performs foolishly selfless acts, and takes any amount of abuse heaped on him. When given a special candy that allows the eater a "second chance," Charley uses it to save Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) who turns around and violates her alliance with him faster than Johnny Fairplay.
Johnny Depp will undoubtedly relish his role as ringmaster Wonka though he’s not given nearly the amount of pithy Oscar Wilde quotes as Wilder. Here Wonka seems to lack the control and humor, often coming across as a mean-spirited imp. Yet, the strangest update has to be the "shocking revelation" that Oompa Loompas are not from Loompaland. Instead, they are merely automatons. This does nothing to add to the story and, if anything, just robs the Wonka factory of its magic. Can’t we just believe that there is a great and powerful Oz? Do we have to know about the man behind the curtain?
The happy ending feels like it was tacked on as an afterthought, finally calling out that Wonka is something of a surrogate father for Charlie. Where Willy Wonka ends with Wonka’s great glass elevator flying over rooftops, Charlie has it crashing down into the Buckett living room. This sums up the movie rather well. Where the 1973 film maintains its magic-keeping that elevator floating-Burton’s will ground Wonka.
Caveat: One can never be completely certain that screenplays are the genuine article. Often bogus or fan-penned works are credited to authors in hopes of obfuscating upcoming studio projects. A problem arises when reviewing August’s alleged work that is contradicted with a comment on the author’s personal website: "But some of the choices made [in the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory such as] killing off Charlie’s father [...] wouldn’t have been my choice." As mentioned above, Mr. Bucket is missing from this screenplay. This throws an air of doubt around the veracity of the work. We’ll see how similar they are when Charlie & The Chocolate Factory comes to theaters.
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