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Budget: $150 million
Opening Weekend: $56 million
Writer: John August based on the book by Roald Dahl
Director: Tim Burton
Set Tutor: Susan Weeks
Copyright Holder: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Oompa Loompa! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was fun fun fun. I'm a big fan of the first Chocolate Factory movie (The one with Willy Wonka in the title) and was a little worried about "remaking" such a classic. But I wholeheartedly recommend Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

In some ways, I like it better. We get more of a backstory for Mr. Wonka, we see Charlie genuinely happy in his humble home, and the factory makes great use of modern visual effects.

Is there anything I didn't like? Well, the editing of the oompa loompas showed that we're not used to making musicals anymore - that, or those sections were a little rushed. I don't know. I'm sure kids, with their less-critical minds won't care a fig, but I found the first song from the oompa loompas jarring. Also - they never actually sing the words "oompa loompa" which was such a memorable part of the first movie. But I liked how each song was sung in a different modern style. It made me look forward to the next one to see what they would do with it.

I spent some of the time trying to figure out why the oompa loompas looked familiar. A quick trip over to Internet Movie Database tells me the actor (Deep Roy) was Mr. Soggybottom in Big Fish. I can rest easy now. Another tidbit from IMDB's bottomless well of knowledge: Nestle provided 1,850 bars of real chocolate for the film, and the giant pink sugar canes, giant humbugs and lollipops in the trees were also real. Now there's product placement for you.

But back to what I loved. The ending! Absolutely adore it. It's a little different from the first movie, but personally I think it's better in every way. Charlie makes a tough choice, and isn't rewarded in the usual Hollywood way. He shows real courage and stands up for himself. Bravo.

I also thought the timing of the release interesting - the same Friday all the bookstores in town were having their big Harry Potter parties at midnight. Most of the kids in my town seem to have had a great day - their parents packed the movie theaters for Charlie to keep all the kids awake long enough to go to Harry. Then everybody stayed in Saturday reading. I think Charlie got half the opening weekend sales it deserved, because Harry stole it away. But I bet the DVD sales for this movie are anything but disappointing.

What does a set tutor do? She doesn't quiz the backdrops on algebra - she helps the child actors keep up with their schoolwork while they're on set. The movie was shot from June through October of 2004, and it's impossible to make a movie and go to school at the same time. But the kids still have to learn their abc's, even when they're working in the biggest chocolate factory ever.