Notes from the Back Row 

Sweet scenes from the Chocolate Factory

I generally don’t condone the mixing of movies and hallucinogens. It’s easy to miss the point of the film entirely because you’re tripping out over whether the curtains beside the screen are moving or not. Having said that, every so often a film comes out that’s just begging for that extra little sensory push. Well that time is upon us and the movie all you mad tabbers have been waiting for is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, opening Friday at the Village 8 cinemas .

We all know the story – poor, goodhearted Charlie lucks into one of chocolateer Willy Wonka’s golden tickets and, along with four other children and their guardians, wins a tour of Wonka’s mysterious and magical chocolate factory. Accompanied by his Grandpa Joe, Charlie takes the tour, watches as the other children fall victim to their bratty, gluttonous shortcomings and, in the end, wins Wonka’s heart and the factory’s legacy while managing to teach the creepy and reclusive Wonka a thing or two about family as well.

Based on Roald Dahl’s classic book, director Tim Burton’s Chocolate Factory is essentially the same as the classic 1971 film starring Gene Wilder. Wilder portrayed the quirky, eccentric Wonka perfectly, adding a menacing tone to the character as if Wonka were punishing the snot-nosed children for their greed and gluttony.

This time around, Johnny Depp plays the candy man, giving us a softer, more vulnerable Willy Wonka who is a uniquely childish, creepy, (and somewhat androgynous) character. As well, Burton has added some backstory to the Wonka character, giving him an overbearing dentist father who wouldn’t allow young Willy any candy or sweets and didn’t understand his son’s creative impulses. It’s a psychological groundwork explaining why Wonka ended up as a recluse, locked in his own magical candy land, uncomfortable with affection and out of place in Charlie’s family-oriented world.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a feast for your eyes, full of sweet visuals and tons of eye candy. From the industrial-gothic cityscape Charlie lives in to the chocolate rivers and hundred tamed nut-cracking squirrels Burton excels at what he does best: creating an elaborate world that’s larger than life and full of constant surprises. Although Depp’s Wonka doesn’t quite measure up to Wilder’s, everything else about this movie is epic and, while it’ll be a big hit with children, the grown ups will love it too. Especially the ones like my supermodel girlfriend, who’ll most likely have a quarter bag of mushrooms mixed in with her peanut M&Ms.

Speaking of girlfriends, you know what I really hate? Weddings. Watching other people’s happiness gets old at the best of times and all the "I do’s" and "I’ll love you forever" crap can really drag on. Everyone knows that weddings are really all about free drinks and hooking up with the thirsty bridesmaids who’ve become temporarily insane by the romance and schoolgirl giddiness of it all.

At least that’s what they’re all about to Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in their new comedy, Wedding Crashers , also opening Friday. The duo stars as cunning divorce lawyers who make a habit of crashing weddings for the women and wine. It’s all fun and games until one of them falls for the daughter of a wealthy politician (Christopher Walken) and the chums find themselves on a weekend getaway with her family.

Wedding Crashers is a clever laugh of a film and Wilson and Vaughn, with their natural charisma, are ideal leads. Despite the forced, half-hour mushy moral lesson tacked on to the end, Wedding Crashers is still a funny, light comedy that’s a perfect way to kick back while you wait for the walls to stop breathing.

AT VILLAGE 8 July 15-21: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Wedding Crashers; Cinderella Man; Madagascar; Bewitched; Herbie Fully Loaded; Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Batman Begins; War of the Worlds; Fantastic Four; Dark Water.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE July 15-21: Lords Of Dogtown.


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