Deliciously dark and packed with candy-coloured visuals, Tim Burton's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is an intoxicating endorphin rush. Freddie Highmore is engagingly winsome as one of five children who scores a ticket to the world's most magnificent chocolate factory. But it's his Finding Neverland co-star Johnny Depp who steals the show as the oddball chocolatier. While the story is a little soft in the centre, his take on Willy Wonka is a richly layered treat.
There's more than a touch of Wacko Jacko about his childlike demeanour - even down to the nervous giggle - but the genius of Depp's performance is that he manages to be creepy, sympathetic and hilarious all at once; "Papa?" he whimpers, when Charlie introduces him to his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly). Straight away it's clear that Wonka is a few fondants short of the whole box...
"A SEDUCTIVE BUT OFF-KILTER WONDERLAND"
Screenwriter John August embellishes Dahl's story with carefully pitched flashbacks to Wonka's traumatic childhood and gives Depp the edge over Gene Wilder's 1971 portrayal. The backstory lends a darker tone, but strangely for Burton, the idea of the four "rotten children" who disappear one by one on the factory tour lacks a palpable sense of menace. His greatest strength is in creating a seductive but slightly off-kilter wonderland rippled with chocolate rivers and where marshmallows grow on shrubs harvested by pygmy-like Oompa-Loompas (all played by Deep Roy). With a garnish of zingy dialogue ("Don't touch that squirrel's nuts, it makes him crazy!"), the finished product is a confection sure to bring out the child in any fudge-loving fuddy-duddy.