Roald Dahl’s timeless tribute to candy is still at it even generations later. This adaptation of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory lives on in our memories as one of the ideal films for families to enjoy together. Right from the fascinatingly relaxing opening credits of cacao beans going through the chocolate treatment, it’s easy to see why this still grasps the imaginations of all ages.
Right from the start when children run straight from school to Fickelgruber’s Fudges, the feeling of freedom in a world of candy is instantly set, only to be shut off when the poor paper boy is seen peering from the outside. Then the rest of the motion picture lights up moment by moment with music as wonderful as Wonka’s scrumdiddlyumptious bar. Even with the creepy moments like the poor boy eyeing curiously at the legendary factory behind closed gates, the free feeling remains with his stories of the factory told by his grandpa Joe. The songs that accompany the boy’s journey are awkward at times but feel as joyful as any whipple-scrumptious fudgemallow delight.
But that’s just the film’s first half, everything after that takes an entirely new tone that starts with a factory door opening to an excited crowd awaiting the entrée of its CEO. From there, the five prize winners expected to tour the factory hang their coats up on golden hand hooks that grip on their own. The children and their parents together sign a contract impossible to read, enter a hallway fit for a funhouse, and relish in a room adorned with all types of candy, all while being tested by the unpredictability and subliminal danger.
It may not be all magical though, as the candy room is clearly made of Styrofoam, balloons, water with chocolate, anything but genuine-looking sweets. The rest of the factory is much like that: a boat traveling at light speed doesn’t even cause wind to blow into the actors’ faces, and golden eggs are laid by obvious puppet geese. But that is easily forgivable as behind-the-scenes information reveals how director Mel Stuart used interesting techniques to surprise the actors.
He also lays out the golden ticket craze with an amusing parallel to the media craze of the late 60’s/early 70’s, or if you want to think of it a little closer to home, Black Friday sales. Everyone in the world wants to win it all when they receive news of the lifetime supply of chocolate they could get from the factory, ensuing madness: a man claims an archangel told him where the ticket is, a man invents a ticket-detecting machine, a box of Wonka bars is auctioned off in London, Mr. Slugworth offers the ticket winners $10,000 in exchange for an Everlasting Gobstopper, the madness does not quit.
Yet underneath all the media hysterics over chocolate, one boy maintains his innocence: Charlie Bucket (played by Peter Ostrum). He is the poor boy I told you about, the one who has to work a low-paying job as a paper boy to support his family. His father has passed on, and his four grandparents are bedridden in his tiny home with his mother. His family has very little, yet he never loses his heart for his family. Peter Ostrum may not have been the best actor in the world, but he still wins you over with his selfless spirit and concern about whether he will be one of five lucky winners.
While he may disappear into the crowd as everyone is in the factory, the rest of the ticket winners, minus the German glutton Augustus Gloop, are wonderfully bratty and remain consistently active throughout the unpredictable events within the factory. Veruca Salt is an adorably spoiled pig who disciplines her bumbling father, Violet Beauregarde always talks a mile a minute to catch up with her even quicker car-salesman of a father, and Mike Teavee is too caught up in his own world to display any manners.
But the man of the hour is the title character himself, perfectly played by the late Gene Wilder (Blazing Saddles, The Producers, Young Frankenstein). I could not think of a better man to play the one born to be a candy man, his wit and unpredictability stretches far and wide. Even before he accepted the part as the sugary legend he knew what the role consisted of. His request of taking the role was that he would make his grand entrance by limping, only to surprise the crowd with a somersault. Now, I am so happy that he marked that condition of taking the role, it set off the most lovingly impulsive one-liner deliverer that family films will ever know.
Movies don’t often look at the world of a poor family in a positive perspective, but Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is gladly one of those rare films. While the whole world was going nuts buying thousands of Wonka bars to hopefully win the most spectacular prize they could ever dream of, the Bucket family was just concerned about making ends meet together.
It can be a tough thing to do: remain hopeful and thankful when you barely have anything, but those types of people are really in a much better state in some aspects, as they don’t have the consumption of material pleasures to top their relational priorities. Just look at the other kids: Augustus would rather chow down than show some manners, Veruca bosses her father around because she knows it will get her what she wants, Violet’s world record in gum chewing gives her a much more snappy impulse, and Mike Teavee has never even sat with his family for dinner because of his television watching.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory still lives on generation after generation as a good deed shining within a dreary world, taking us away into a journey of imagination and family laughter. Thank you for what you added to this motion picture and the world, Gene. You will be sorely missed.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
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Natale, Richard. Gene Wilder, ‘Willy Wonka’ Star and Comedic Icon, Dies at 83. Variety. Wordpress, 29 Aug 2016. Web. <http://variety.com/2016/film/news/gene-wilder-dead-dies-willie-wonka-young-frankenstein-1201846745/>.
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