Cert: U Runtime: 100 mins Director: Mel Stuart Starring: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson and Peter Ostrum
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men
Recently I watched a documentary of my favourite childhood author Roald Dahl, after this I watched Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. It was my favourite book as a child and also my best Dahl based film. So the original version will be my blast from the past this week. The world is astounded when Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), for years a recluse in his factory, announces that five lucky people will be given a tour of the factory, shown all the secrets of his amazing candy, and one will win a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. Nobody wants the prize more than young Charlie (Peter Ostrum), but as his family is so poor that buying even one bar of chocolate is a treat, buying enough bars to find one of the five golden tickets is unlikely in the extreme. But in movieland, magic can happen. Charlie, along with four somewhat odious other children, get the chance of a lifetime and a tour of the factory. Along the way, mild disasters befall each of the odious children, but can Charlie beat the odds and grab the brass ring?Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking and remains one of the most fascinating and wonderful adventure films ever made. One of the things that makes this film so intriguing is that it could have been made at any time. I mean, just from watching it, you can’t really tell when it was made. It has been one of my favorite films for almost 20 years now.
At any rate, Willy Wonka is a tremendously imaginative and inspiring film. It’s a family film, but one of the most important aspects of a family film is that it has to be enjoyable for a variety of ages. This is what makes movies like Toy Story and Shrek such huge successes- the adults will love it just as much as the kids are sure to. Hence: `family’ film. On the other hand, this is also the downfall of such other movies that are strictly for a much younger audience, like Cats & Dogs. The makers of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory understood this very well, and you can see that just by the way that the cast is divided. Here are all of these kids (funny how it was only kids who found those golden tickets…) who were at this candy factory, and they had each elected to bring one of their parents with them as the one admissible member of their family who was allowed by Wonka to accompany them to the factory. One of the best elements of this film is the excellently written script and, even more, the songs. These are some of the best songs in any movie ever made, rivaling even the best of the songs from Disney’s films (hey, some of them are really good…). There are, of course, some exceptions, such as `Cheer up, Charlie,’ which I have been fast-forwarding through for as long as I can remember, but for the most part, the songs are fun to listen to and they pertain to life outside the movie. They are not just songs about the candy-making genius of Willy Wonka or the excitement of being able to tour his mysterious factory, but they are about life in the real world. They’re about believing in yourself and being motivated in life (`Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it…’), but there are also some that have to do mostly with the movie but are still just as enjoyable, such as the classic song that Wonka sings in the tunnel on board his boat (curiously named `Wonkatania’), which was creepily covered by Marilyn Manson a couple of decades later.
The dialogue in the film contains some of the most interesting little tidbits in the entire movie. Wonka’s lines, in particular, are wonderfully strange and amusing (`A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.’). He is a truly eccentric and fascinating man, and Gene Wilder captures the character flawlessly, as he delivers the lines from the brilliantly written script. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those rare movies that comes along and completely changes the way that fantasy films are made. It’s all about having fun in life and being hopeful against all odds and, most of all, being able to have fun in life. There are times when you have to let things go for a while and just act like a kid. Eat candy, run around and play, steal fizzy lifting drinks and bump into the ceiling that now has to be washed and sterilized, it doesn’t matter as long as no one’s looking. That’s such a trivial little quirk of Wonka’s (who sterilizes their ceiling?) that it becomes obvious that the movie is trying to say that it’s okay to break the rules every once in a while. Have fun in life. Besides being absolutely mouth-watering (to this day, I still fantasize about sinking my teeth into one of those gigantic gummy bears), the movie is an uplifting adventure that warms the heart and sends people of all ages away with fairy tale candies dancing in their heads and wonderful songs just behind their lips. It is an always-welcome vacation from reality for people of all ages, and it should always be remembered and loved for that. This movie will ALWAYS be a must-see.