Making the Grades
In the early 70s, Gene Wilder's quirky and eccentric portrayal of Willy Wonka introduced moviegoers to the fantastical and oddly eerie world of the famous chocolate maker. Now Johnny Depp, wearing purple rubber gloves and a chin-length bob, revisits the candy plant with a performance that may leave some viewers thinking of another gloved entertainer.
Dealing with issues from his past, Willy Wonka has built a fortress-like factory where he churns out pounds and pounds of delicious sweets. After 15 years of reclusion, Willy announces that a few lucky children will win an exclusive tour of his workshop and get a chance to compete for an ultimate prize.
One of the fortunate five is Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore). He lives in a dilapidated house on the edge of town with his parents (Noah Taylor, Helena Bonham Carter) and both sets of grandparents. Leaning in an open field, the crooked walls and leaky roof of the little dwelling are overshadowed by the enormous smoke stacks of the Wonka Chocolate Factory. But while money might be scarce inside the humble abode, there is plenty of love.
The other four contestants (Annasophia Robb, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Philip Wiegratz) are less amicable. Over-indulged, ill mannered, extremely competitive and violently aggressive, they represent everything bad about poorly parented children. Showing up at the front gates on tour day with their moms or dads in tow, they shrewdly size each other up, hoping to prevail for the unspecified reward. However, like the first film, their individual comeuppance is swift, complete and uniquely personalized.
Wandering through the factory, the children and their escorts meet the workforce of miniature, imported Oompa Loompas (Deep Roy). They also get a preview of the invention room, testing facilities and magical candy garden. This script, however, deviates from the original, peeking into Willy's childhood and introducing his estranged father (Christopher Lee). But the attempt to explain the chocolatier's idiosyncrasies, only adds to the film's peculiar feel.
For younger children, the storyline's abrupt turns and shaded humor (including some double entendres) may be difficult to follow. As well, the film includes moments of peril when some cute, cuddly squirrels turn vicious and a puppet show catches fire.
While older children may enjoy the highly imaginative and bizarre confectionary complex, some parents will be wary of Willy and his seeming inability to function outside the factory. Fortunately for others, the stellar performances by the film's secondary characters and the positive lessons of family life in the little shack may be enough to spark some good discussion about manners, kindness and enthusiasm for new experiences.
If nothing else, the computer generated images of rich, yummy chocolate will likely leave audiences craving a tasty sampling of something sweet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Charlie lives with his parents and grandparents. How is their family portrayed? What positive things come out of Charlie’s interaction with his grandparents? What can a person learn from the older generation?
How did Charlie’s grandpa feel about money? What things can be more important than money? What does Charlie’s family have that can’t be bought?
Like the original movie, this film includes lessons on moral behavior. What does it teach about manners, gluttony, selfishness, kindness etc? Are these examples pertinent today?