Chocolate-covered hobbits do Bollywood

I used to be a big Tim Burton fan. I greatly enjoyed his dark romanticism of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Batman Returns is probably my favourite Batman film. (Batman Begins does better action, but it lacks the inventiveness and the compelling relationships between characters such as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Michael Caine’s Alfred rules, though.) And even if Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by Henry Selick, it still oozed Burtonesque style from every semi-putrescent orifice. It had the Tim Burton soul.

Then came Mars Attacks!, a nice half-hour comedy stuck in a two-hour movie, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – a film that looked gorgeous (I never knew there were so many colours in grey before that movie) but had a meanness that hadn’t been in the previous films. The less said about Burton’s Planet of the Apes, the better. And Big Fish, even though lots of people liked it, always struck me as a smug, self-satisfied piece of schmaltz. It sides unequivocally with a self-infatuated, selfish boor who needs to stand at the centre of attention. (I very much saw where Billy Crudup’s character was coming from… Personally I would have strangled Daddy Storyteller in his sleep halfway through my childhood if I was him.) When I first saw the trailers for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I was suspicious. Actually, no. I was turned off. I thought they looked loud, crude, tacky and tasteless. None of that weirdo “I’m a goth, please give me a hug” sweetness of the early films. In spite of liking Roald Dahl, I gave Charlie a wide berth.

Wonka by name, Wonka by nature

Until they showed it on television last week. We watched it, expecting very little… but roughly five minutes into the film we both had silly grins on our faces. From the first scene, the snow swirling around the Warner Brothers logo and the strains of Danny Elfman’s orchestral score, it felt like the Tim Burton I’d come to love. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is by no means perfect, and there are moments that are too shrill for their own good. It’s also somewhat let down by an overly sentimental, almost Disney-ish streak of “Family matters”. But on the whole it gets the balance between quirkiness, whimsy and sentiment just right, helped along by the touching earnestness of the title character and an almost surreal, dark streak that comes from Willy Wonka, arguably one of Burton’s most troubled characters yet, and the Oompa Loompas.

Based on this movie, I can say that I’m again looking forward to the next film by Tim Burton for the first time in years.

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4 thoughts on “Chocolate-covered hobbits do Bollywood

  1. Qrycha December 17, 2007 / 2:08 pm

    You should watch “Vincent” by Tim Burton. It’s short (about 6 minutes), old (1982), but deffinitelly great. You were writing about “Tim Burton soul”… this is it! If You want You can watch the video on my blog —> http://qrycha.wordpress.com/2007/11/23/vincent/ . Best regards

  2. silverfoot December 28, 2007 / 7:32 am

    i share your assessment of “Sleepy Hollow” and “Apes,” but there are too many little moments in “Big Fish” that resonate for me for me to be completely on your side on that one, even though, in some ways, i am in total agreement. Vincent *is* totally fab. Have you seen “Corpse Bride”…? any thoughts on that?

  3. thirithch December 28, 2007 / 7:47 am

    I liked Corpse Bride, though not nearly as much as Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s very nicely done, but there’s something in the Corpse Bride’s voice acting that fails to connect with me – and Victor & Victoria also remain fairly flat and clichéd. The relationships aren’t nearly as credible for me as that between Jack Skellington and Sally.

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