+ "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": Was 1971’s "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" a bad movie? We’ve never really comprehended it in terms of quality â€” watching and rewatching it at an impressionable young age, certain striking scenes hovered in our memory, and it wasn’t until years later that we actually understood them in the context of some narrative. We only bring it up because several critics take Tim Burton‘s remake as an opportunity to knock Mel Stuart‘s version, which we suppose we’d always mentally shelved as an untouchable classic. Oh,
Anyway, everyone seems to find "Charlie" flawed but nonetheless fairly awesome. Johnny Depp‘s odd, odd Willy Wonka, on the other hand, most dislike or could take or leave. No one fails to mention Michael Jackson as an inspiration, but others come up as well: A. O. Scott calls him "an unholy mash-up of Mr. Rogers and Truman Capote," Matt Zoller Seitz suggests he’s "a socially inept cousin of industrialist Max Shreck in ‘Batman Returns,’" Stephanie Zacharek finds him more like Phil Spector, David Edelstein‘s reminded of Lon Chaney in "The Phantom of the Opera," and Roger Ebert sees a bit of Carol Burnett there.
The other much-discussed issue is screenwriter John August‘s addition of several non-Dahl backstory-providing flashbacks (with Christopher Lee as Wonka’s sugar-hating dentist father with a fondness for elaborate braces and headgear). Ella Taylor finds they "end up flattening the movie," while Ed Park merely finds them "superfluous" (and honestly, isn’t Wonka better as an inexplicable weirdo? who needs background?). No one gives us the reading of the Oompa Loompas as modern metaphor for outsourcing labor that we were longing for, but Matt Zoller Seitz wins the over-interpretation award with this:
Charlie might be Burton circa 1965â€”a gangly dreamer who emulates his hero by building a scale model of Wonka’s factory from bits of toothpaste tubes. Wonka might be a worst-case version of the director after 10 more years, five more movies and several tax brackets: a hermit visionary who tries to shield himself from every conceivable type of injury.
+ "Happy Endings": A lesser "The Opposite of Sex," apparently, and everyone’s responses to "Endings" seem predicated on how that felt about Don Roos‘ 1998 directorial debut. Ella Taylor claims that "Roos is good with actors, and ‘Happy Endings’ has some striking performances," something everyone seems to agree on: Tom Arnold and Lisa Kudrow are frequently singled out, while Manohla Dargis and Roger Ebert are particularly fond of Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s performance (La Manohla: "It’s possible that Gyllenhaal will never become a major star, but there isn’t an American actress in movies today who holds the screen with as much deep-seated soul."). Dargis and Taylor enjoy the film the most, while others find it a mixture of "eh" to "bleh." Ben Kenigsberg, Stephanie Zacharek and Michael Koresky take issue with Roos’ coy use of inter- and subtitles, while Armond White takes time off from his mid-year round-up to, unsurprisingly, stomp on the film:
Roos aims at being a West Coast Neil LaBute, except his sophomoric idea of truth is openly tied to a pretense of gay candor…Roos’ chic liberalism is more hateful here than it was in "The Opposite of Sex." Hollywood’s attitude toward sexuality is not improved through insidious teasing. Itâ€™s merely a way of force-feeding attitude.