The most glaring shortcoming of this "Chocolate Factory" is the bizarre, off-putting performance of Johnny Depp. He is as badly miscast as Gene Wilder was in the earlier film (Willy Wonka was both very old and a dwarf), but Wilder was very likable. Depp is just strange.
This one isn't a musical, so I can't really criticize it for not having songs, but I will say this: it could use some songs (besides the Oompa-Loompa musical lectures). The "reimagined" children are disappointing (gum-chewing and TV-watching aren't interesting enough flaws anymore so now we get hyper-competitiveness and technological precocity in their place). Veruca Salt is still a spoiled rich girl, but now she's self-aware enough to be two-faced, instead of throwing tantrums. It all makes for a long, slow tour through the factory.
The Oompa-Loompas are better in some ways and not in others--their look and songs are different, but they're too "modern" and seem out of place. They also pull the punches--we're told before he's even gone that no harm will come to Augustus Gloop, despite his clearly deserving it. It's better that we're not sure (like in the 1970 version).
All in all, this Tim Burton Vision of Dahl's story is a big, fat disappointment. The best parts of the story (like when Charlie believes the 5th ticket has been found, then gets the double surprise of the revelation of the forgery and getting his own ticket) are almost entirely skipped here. It's as if Burton doesn't want us to enjoy the story. If so, he got his way (at least with me).
In case you were wondering--Reed was cute as a button, and very good for a younger child actor (better than many of the older actors), but there's really nothing too obvious which you can see and say "I recognize who that is!" I'd have to see more intervening performances to see a progression.
It's interesting to me that among a cast of newcomers and unknowns, the worst performances are from the adults--especially Don Dixon (Bert). The kids fare much better in general, and their musical performances are their real strengths (unsurprisingly). A surer hand on the direction and script could have tightened Camp up considerably, but even as messy as it is, it's still well worth seeing.
The show is also a bit more ambitious than most of the shows you'll see it compared to, because the cast and setting aren't entirely African-American. On the debit side, the two main characters are the most boring. I'm much more interested in Walt, Ace, and Candy than I am with Kevin and Tiffany, but the same can't be said for the writers (so far). I think at least part of the blame for that has to rest with the actors--Marques Houston is prone to over-reliance on cheap laughs from urban/hip-hop clichés, while Shannon Elizabeth's character is a walking, talking stereotype.
My advice (assuming the show lasts) is to use the other characters more, and get out of the shop more. I'd especially like to see more of the neighborhood.
There's both too much and too little going on, if that's possible. The various plot threads wander around before finally getting to what turns out to be the main plot. By that time, there have been a few too many scenes of people walking around while the soundtrack music plays. Some of the characters take too long to register, as well. The one who might be the most important, Dan Jarvis (the suicidal, soon-to-be-outed video store owner), never really registers at all--he never amounts to much of anything besides vague melancholy.
I don't blame the actors, really.....the ones we don't know well enough simply haven't had enough dialogue to let us know them. Fewer subplots and a little less wistful scenery montage would have helped the through-line considerably.
Put most simply, this has too much atmosphere to be a Plot Film and too much plot to be an Atmosphere Film. Not that it would ever have a chance to happen, but I think Wilby would have worked much better as a series.
I actually think Fawlty Towers itself is a tad overrated. I have loved watching many of the episodes, but from time to time, especially when watching more than one episode in succession, the frenetic pace and shouted dialog's gets to be too much. That said, Amanda's never even approaches the level of Fawlty Towers.
I'm particularly liking Krumholtz, who has turned out to be very different from what I would have expected. Most surprisingly of all, he turned out to be CUTE. He was a fairly stereotypically nerdy Jewish boy as a teenager, but the big-eyed, shaggy-haired socially awkward angelic genius role fits him like a glove. In another actor's hands, it would likely be pretty cloying, but Krumholtz underplays it nicely.
Rob Morrow and Judd Hirsch are more typical characters, with more workmanlike performances so far, but the chemistry between the three Eppeses is fine. The other characters will be developing as the show ages, so we'll see how they turn out.
As I said, I suspect they will have to leave aside the specific formula they've laid out for the show so far, because even if they manage to come up with dozens of plots which hinge on some permutation of mathematics, the theme is certain to quickly grow repetitive and even self-parodying before too long. Since they have supplied interesting characters, though, change-of-pace plots should be just as watchable as the ones done up to now.
They didn't, though. The third act is tedious (as they confront their differences) and it weighs down the rest of the film. It doesn't ruin it, however--I still recommend it, especially for people who like Burt and Goldie, who have chemistry.
As for the boys, they're all different (too different to all come from the same family, but that's probably a little too meta for a modern sitcom to worry about) and each has potential in his own way, but I think there's simply too many to develop in a half-hour show. I think I would have dropped the two youngest and concentrated on the high-school crowd. Chris is too stupid and Sam is too nerdy, but Jack is a fairly well-drawn character. Given time, they'll all smooth out. Most important is that the situation be allowed to evolve if the show is to last longer than a season or two.
None of this means the show isn't watchable--it is. The network probably wonders why they're shelling out so much money for all those Emmy- and Oscar-winners, though, since a cast of nobodies would probably make just as good a show.
That's not to say it's perfect. The story is less silly than Rudolph, but it's still pretty silly in spots. Some of the appeal of this is a campy quality that applies to all of these shows. But the songs in this are catchy and memorable, much more so than the other shows. I think it's a shame that this has been relegated to minor cable showings while Rudolph still gets a network showcase every year.
The scripts are very verbal, including long interior monologues by the main character Ria, a basically happy but unsettled housewife curious about what she might have missed out on when she embarked on a thoroughly conventional life. When she meets a successful but clumsy and emotionally accessible businessman (who makes his interest in her quite clear), she toys with the idea of finding out what the other path might have offered.
The acting and scripts are always on the money, which makes one's reaction to the show almost entirely a personal one: I was neither blown away by it nor turned off. My mother, on the other hand, adored this show. I think the degree to which one identifies with Ria's dilemma is the most important factor in determining one's reaction to Butterflies.
Andy Richter is too ironic-sarcastic to fit in with the predictable cute-popular vs. goofy-unpopular teen dichotomy, which is itself far too obvious to be interesting. It doesn't help that the actors playing the kids are marginal at best, and completely unbelievable as siblings. Rebecca Creskoff is a typical sitcom mom, very much like the character she played on Greetings From Tucson.