I was finally able to see the new Willy Wonka movie starring Johnny Depp and I was incredibly disappointed. Johnny Depp is no Gene Wilder and Tim Burton is no Mel Stuart. Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka is a trans-gender, Carol Channing-like, homoerotic child-lover whereas Wilder’s Wonka was touching and human and funny and delightful.
Depp’s Wonka lusted after childhood while Wilder’s Wonka found the wonderful in children. Burton’s movie is dark and evil. Stuart’s movie is bright and dream-like. The songs, acting and script are better in the Wilder version. The Depp version is maudlin and modern and if you’ve seen Wilder’s original you will only be disappointed in the pale remake.

26 Comments

  1. The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite movies. I saw it when I was 8 years old in the theatre and it had a profound impact on me. I went home and created all kinds of inventions like fingernail polish that you can lick off of your fingers out of jello mix and sugar and water. The message of the movie hit home quite clearly. Good kids win. I will not see Tim Burton’s version because I know it will just upset me. Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka.
    I haven’t seen Batman Begins yet but I plan to.

  2. Hi suzanne!
    Yes, I remember the original Wonka as fondly as you do and it is one of the fond touchstones of my childhood as well.
    I can’t imagine Burton’s Wonka having the same effect on children today and I think you are quite smart to know you don’t want to ruin your childhood memory with a meek update.
    Janna and I re-watched the original Wonka right after we finished Burton’s to get the goodness back in our lives!
    I will be interested to see what you think of Batman Begins.

  3. Ah, you make an excellent point! In the original Wonka, Charlie was a real person. He was fallible. He was moody. He broke the rules, nearly lost the factory but then he did the right thing and stood up against his deficits, apologized and gave back his Everlasting Gobstopper.
    In the new Wonka, Charlies is angelic. He is spookily perfect. He loves his family. He can do no wrong. Wonka loves him eternally and even joins his family at the end of the movie. No lessons are learned. The opportunity for human teaching is lost.

  4. Wow, I didnt realize there was this much distate for the movie.
    I found as a child and still find the Wilder Wonka to be very creepy, he is mean and secretive. I think it reflects the cynicism of the times. Also, I was dissapointed by the mutation of the story in the original. The Oompa-loompa songs in the orignial are completely fabricated.
    The Burton/Depp rendition is actually fairly true to the story, however I agree that the Hollywood ending obscures the lesson of the story. Charlie is the ‘savior’ of his family. His hope, his dreams are what carries them through.
    Burton/Depp push the boundaries of normalcy and acceptedness, but that’s what makes their films interesting and provocative.

  5. Hi Jonathan —
    In what ways was Wilder’s Wonka more secretive, meaner and creepier than Depp’s?
    Fabrication is a necessary part of adaptation, I fear, in translating a work from one medium to the next and it is a delicate trick to add new things to make it your own while honoring the original.
    I think Burton went too far honoring the original if, indeed, his story is more faithful to Roald Dahl’s book and, at least to you, it seems the Wilder version went too far the other way.

  6. Yes, adaptation is a tricky art. Not just Wonka, other aspcets of the original feel creepy to me as well. The ‘spy’ going around whispering in children’s ears. The contract, the creepy psychedelic trip in the boat. I think this comes down to personal taste. Its clear that this a sacred ground for some people, so I wont tread on it any further :).

  7. Don’t go running away just yet, Jonathan!
    :mrgreen:
    I’m still waiting for you to detail how Wilder’s Wonka is creepier, more secretive and meaner than Depp’s!
    I loved Slugworth! He was the childhood boogey man who turns out, in the end, to be a good guy after all. He was testing their mettle and their courage. He was a metaphor for living a proper life against threats and temptations and only Charlie passed the test in the end by not selling out his spirit.
    Gosh, I also prefer the psychedelic boat ride to Burton’s watery Disney fantasy. 😀
    I also thought the contract was hilarious! It speaks louder and more potently today then it did in 1971!

  8. I dont find Depp’s Wonka to be creepy. Wierd and eccentric yes, but not creepy. It comes down to body language for me. Wilder looks at the kids with a ‘evil eye’, it makes my skin crawl. He is oddly detached.
    Did you see Big Fish? Burton seems to have an interest in oversaturated colors, Im not sure this was due to Disney producing the film. Oversaturated color gives the feeling of hyper-reality.
    I havent talked to any kids about this, perhaps kids find it creepy. I would be interested to hear from those with kids who have seen both.

  9. I think you are the only person I’ve read or met who did NOT find Depp to be a total creep-out experience! I think Burton wanted his Wonka semi-creepy, no?
    I find Depp oddly detached and Wilder quite warm and likable. Are you sure we’re talking about the same two actors?
    😆
    Yes, I saw Big Fish and I found it pretentious and repetitive. I know Burtonites love all his work and I always respect the effort even if it isn’t to my taste. Getting any movie made today is a great accomplishment.
    I look forward to your kids report on both Wonka movies and I’m sure all the kindergarteners who read this blog will chime in as soon as their parents type up their opinions!
    :mrgreen:

  10. I thought I was an eternal optimist till I saw the Depp – version of Willy Wonka – both the movie and the character (played by Johnny Depp) was literally murdered – period. I almost ”fell in love” with Johny Depp after seeing ”Platoon”, ”Chocolat”, ”Sectret Window”….I still remember how I ”fell out of love” instantly after watching ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. I lost all enthusiasm even to interpret/ relate the movie with the modern era…..

  11. You make a fine argument, Katha, and I completely forgot he made his debut in “Platoon” and I thank you for the reminder.
    I fell out of love with him too after seeing him as the child chaser in the latest Wonka movie.

  12. I won’t watch this movie only because the trailers I’ve seen make him look like someone’s possessed him with that freaky smile. I bet his face got stuck like that a few times. Most of the people that have claimed they’ve watched it say it was pretty bad.

  13. Hi hterry!
    Yes, the whole “big teeth” thing is a big part of the Depp movie. Wonka’s father was a dentist and didn’t like candy and placed his son Willy into a full head braces contraption. It’s all rather cruel upon reflection…

  14. Ok I’ve seen the Wilder Wonka more times than I can count. I recently saw the Burton/Depp version on a plane headed to O’hare. I started out comparing it with the original and I was not realy interested in watching it (it took a long boring flight to get me to see it). In the end I did get a good laugh out of some parts. As I stopped comparing and started to go with the new twists in the story I found it entertaining in a weirdish kind of way.
    And, for anyone who hasn’t seen it I’d just wait for the TV Premier on whichever cable channel you prefer (you know those “for the first time on this channel on this month at this hour of day” kind of premier) 😉

  15. Johnny Depp is so creepy…it is so strange that he is considered a heart thorb. I guess women don’t go for creepy guys until they get famous. This is probably true and obvious too since alot of famous heartthrobs say that before they were famous they couldn’t even get a date. Women are so superficial.