If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Although Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a newer adaptation of a work that had previously been adapted into a film that is famous in its own right, I don't feel like you can compare the two. I only start with this because when this film came out that's pretty much all anybody did was compare them, but I feel like they're different enough with different angles on the story. That being said, I find Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be an incredibly enjoyable piece, with vibrant colors, beautiful music and some really amazing characters.
Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) is a chocolatier with an enormous factory and a contest: He invites five lucky people who find golden tickets in his candy to visit his factory for a tour with a special prize at the end. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is a poor boy living just outside of the gates of the factory whose luck turns around when he finds a ticket. The tour is held and the five kids are shown into a wondrous land of chocolate, but their greed gets the best of them and lands them into trouble.
First of all, I love Willy Wonka. I love how happy he always is and how he's obviously been locked away in his factory just long enough to have completely forgotten how to act in the real world. This mixed with his personal issues from childhood make him not only a little off but at times downright disturbing, but in a very comedic way. Speaking of his daddy issues, I just have to say that this part of the film really used to bother me. It felt tacked in, like they wanted Wonka to have a backstory but it didn't fit into the main plot. Having watched the film again, however, it really does work with the film and actually creates some of my favorite little moments.
The factory itself is gigantic both in scale and in vision. The sets are absolutely gorgeous, lush with color and style. Every room of the factory has its own very unique designs with plenty of things going on to catch your eye. They did a great job with Deep Roy playing the Oompa Loompas, who at times really steal the show. Speaking of that, the score and the songs for this movie are probably my favorite things about it. All of the lyrics for the songs are from the original Roald Dahl book, and composer Danny Elfman brought his own vision to them with homages to music through the past several decades. The songs lead to some of the best sequences of the film which are fun to watch on their own as well as in context.
The kids are all pretty much as they were in the book and in the original story, but their motivations are more defined this time around. Each of them has a very specific way that they were able to grab the tickets, and Charlie is the only one who really got it the honest way. Charlie is a completely incorruptible character, which is something a lot of people don't like in characters (especially Superman). I've never felt that way myself. I like characters who are just genuinely good no matter what and always willing to do the right thing first. Charlie doesn't even want to go to the factory at first because he thinks he could get the money to help his family with it instead. That sort of thing is what makes him a great character to me and I feel that any arguments to the contrary that I've heard have been rather cynical. And as you probably know, I hate cynicism.
I feel like people forget that this is a kids film because of some of the darker tones to the story, but then people also forget that kids can totally accept dark undertones if the rest of the story is good. The flashbacks aren't exactly solid but they do fit in with the mood of the rest of the film if you're able to get your mind out of the book or the original film. Standing on its own, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite kids movies in recent years and I'd highly recommend it to anybody who hasn't seen it yet.