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The Bowler found himself a golden ticket! Our first test screening review of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with our first test screening review of Tim Burton's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I really can't believe this movie is coming out soon... Tim Burton's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY... Something I never thought I'd see. So, the powers that be held a couple test screenings up in Chicago and we got a review from one of them! What'd they think? Well, you'll have to read to find out! Hopefully we'll get some more reviews soon to get a broader idea of where this movie will fall... Keep in mind the print was unfinished, no final score, some unfinished effects. You know the drill. Enjoy the review!

I just got back from Chicago being the first audience in the world to see the upcoming “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” and I thought I’d throw down some opinions on it.

Before the movie started a guy was walking around asking groups of two if they wanted to take ten minutes of their time after the movie to spend talking to the filmmakers about the movie. Seeing this as my chance to meet Tim Burton my brother got us two on the list of what ended up being about 29 people in the end. So, before the movie even began I was excited. As it became 6:30 we were informed that we were the second audience in the world to see the film (the first being the 14 and under crowd earlier in the day) so that our opinions would be very important after the screening (we filled out comment cards afterwards).

As it began it became very obvious that none of the music was final being that the opening credit suite was from Spider-Man 2. The film opens with a long shot of chocolate bars being made from the inside view of the Wonka factory. Being that the effects on this sequence were far from finished looking I cannot comment on the final product, only that it seems like a good introduction to the names and people involved in the film.

The first act of the movie is the most similar to the first film. In it we are introduced to all of the kids and how they got their tickets. Some of the best and funniest scenes are how we find that these kids got their tickets and what their lives are like before they end up at the factory. Each of the kids brought something new to their characters that made them stand out from the previous incarnation and make it seem like a newly-updated version of the source material as opposed to an actual remake: (Augustus is still a little chub with a chocolate bar always in his mouth, Violet is a karate-kicking champ still obsessed w/ gum, Mike TeeVee is now into violent video games and being a genius to figure out how to get his ticket, Veruca’s father still buys her way into the ticket but she seems even more annoying this time around). Charlie himself has a very similar upbringing to the original with the four grandparents living in their bed and his parents struggling, however his father now has a hilarious sidestory involving his job. What I liked a lot about the kids’ intros too was the way that they all looked like Willy Wonka w/ the makeup to make their faces seem very plastic, smooth, and flat. It makes sense in the context of the movie, but it makes you believe that they could all one day try and become just like Willy himself when they grow up. It gives you hope that they are not all going to be little brats and that they might be good little children. Soon, those hopes are dashed.

Wonka himself now has shown reason for closing the factory, which actually resides on the same road as Charlie’s house in this version, although gone are the mentions of Slugworth, simply spies trying to infiltrate his factory. Once Depp appears (about 35 minutes in) he is absolute gold. He walks the line of complete comedic genius very close to creepy Michael Jackson imposter going all the way from inviting kids to live with him to wearing purple latex gloves everywhere and being afraid of anyone touching him. This is not explained all at once, but instead through a hilarious series of flashbacks throughout the factory visit that shows the audience how Willy became such a chocolate lover and why we never find out anything about his life before the factory until now.

The factory scenes are very familiar to everyone, however they have gone the better route this time around by not just making them the same, but not changing them a lot either. They take the basic concept of the kids getting kicked out (chocolate river, teleportation, golden egg, blueberry) and kind of change and expand on them to make them feel new again. Accompanying each of these scenes is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes overly drawn out song and dance by the Oompa Loompas. These little people, whose backstory of how they came to work for Willy is also explained, dance and sing a song each pertaining to the child in question getting kicked out. Most of the time it is hard to hear what they are singing about, but a lot of the joke is in the dancing that they are doing either around the child, on the kid, or in once instance synchronized swimming.

Getting beyond the factory there is new stories involving Willy and his upbringing that are flashback-ed to during the movie itself explaining how Willy ended up being the guy that he is. Overall, I think that this version will hopefully become a classic with the kids of this generation like the original version was for the generation that is now the parents of these kids going to see this. Thankfully, there is also enough humor and plot to keep the people above 10 involved a lot in the movie, yet while not making it too scary for the young ones.

While my thoughts of this movie are obviously hampered by being a huge fan of the original w/ Gene Wilder I feel that the ways that this movie made itself completely different are what will not only set it apart from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, but make it a great, funny, exciting time at the movies for everyone.

Now, back to the beginning about the focus group process. I have good and bad news. The good news is almost everyone LOVED the hell out of this thing. People loved the humor, the direction, and most of all Johnny Depp. Here's the bad part. People were not too found of the Wonka backstory. They felt that having little to nothing known about him was what made him the character that he is. I'm sad to say this, but I really hope they don't change a thing. I loved it the way it is and I hope that everyone gets to see this movie. Tim Burton has taken the timeless masterpiece, went back to what made it amazing, and tweaked it just enough to make it his own.

If you happen to post this, call me ‘The Bowler’K

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