Then there's the special case of the film that overshadows the book, where deficiencies in the original book-to-film transition justify remaking the film to tap the aspects of the book the first film missed. Take "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." James is sure to rile a few fans of the 1971 Gene Wilder movie with this:
The Johnny Depp version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (opening next week) comes from Roald Dahl's children's novel about a boy who inherits Willy Wonka's candy factory. The book is not exactly unknown, but there are plenty of people surprised to learn that it is not called "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" like the creaky 1971 film. It's hard to get past that movie's old-Hollywood musical numbers; what child really likes the song "Candyman"?I was just reading the recent cover story in Entertainment Weekly on the new Depp film (subscription link) which was somewhat more deferential to the old "Wonka" film, even as it reminded us of the ridiculous Gene Wilder complaints about the remake:
Whether or not 1971's Willy Wonka is a great film, or even a good film, is almost beside the point. Neither commercially nor critically successful at the time of its release, Wilder's film only later snowballed into a sort of camp classic. Now, three decades later, it's become a sugarcoated time capsule for a generation known for its nostalgic sweet tooth. On the set of Charlie, virtually everyone is careful to respectfully sing the praises of Wilder and his film, but that didn't stop Wilder from bad-mouthing the new Charlie, telling London's Daily Telegraph recently: ''It's all about money. It's just some people sitting around thinking 'How can we make some more money?' Why else would you remake Willy Wonka?'' Wilder declined to comment for this article.Hmmm.... I see Wilder very recently retracted his criticism. Good move. He sounded like an idiot. His film just isn't that good. If the new film is great -- as it should be! -- he can't possibly hope to prevail with his contention that his film is so perfect there's no room for a remake. The fact is the 1971 film is rather crappy. Who are the people who love it? That movie always struck me as intended for the pothead/acidhead audience of the day. Then it became a cult film when those people got older and bought VCRs and needed to entertain their kids.
Depp says he was taken aback when he heard Wilder's remarks. ''Hearing about that was disappointing,'' he says. ''But I can understand where he's coming from, I guess. The one thing I didn't understand was that apparently he was quoted as saying 'Well, they just did this for money.' Well, hey, man, where have you been? When didn't they ever do anything for money? Nobody's ever made a film in the history of cinema where they weren't expecting some return on their dough.''