Sunday, June 26, 2016

Movie Review: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971)

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Movie"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"
Director: Mel Stuart
Year: 1971
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

When chocolate maker Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) hides five golden tickets in his candy bars and randomly ships them around the world, the globe is swept up in a frenzy looking for them. Finding one will gain the ticket holder entry into his mysterious factory, as well as a lifetime supply of chocolate. One boy in particular, a boy named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), hopes to find a ticket. Unfortunately, his family is very poor and can barely buy food, let alone chocolate bars. After finding some money on the ground, Charlie tries his luck buying his favorite chocolate bar, and his life just might be forever changed after he becomes one of the five ticket holders.

Directed by Mel Stuart and featuring a screenplay written by Roald Dahl himself (even though many say he wasn't happy with the final product), "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is the first live action adaptation of Dahl's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." It stars Gene Wilder as the titular Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum in his first and only on-screen appearance as Charlie Bucket. Willy Wonka has been unseen for many years. The story revolves around the five golden tickets he has hidden within his candy bars and the subsequent search for them. Once the winners are announced, one of them being the very poor but very innocently sweet Charlie Bucket, the five ticket holders and each of their plus one adult guests tour Wonka's factory, which acts as both a reward and a punishment for the lucky or possibly unlucky kids who found them. The children are treated to candy and chocolate beyond their imagination while on this tour, gleaning an insight into how this bizarre candy-man comes up with his creations.

This adaptation is a musical and is filled with many great, catchy tunes BigJ and I fondly remember from our childhoods and often sing now as adults. With songs like "The Candy Man," "(I've Got) A Golden Ticket," "Pure Imagination, " and "I Want It Now," "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is sure to keep your toes tapping, even now some 45 years later. The only song in the film that isn't catchy and feels sorely out of place is "Cheer Up Charlie," which works as a good lullaby if you are having trouble sleeping (which we have implemented on several occasions while watching this flick at night). In addition to its mostly wonderful music, the colors are bright and outstanding, but unlike its more recent counterpart, seems much more strange and grand, if that's even possible. Once inside the factory, it is truly a world of dreams, one we often wish we could have visited as kids. As you may know if you've seen the film, these dreams quickly turn into a nightmare as the group passes through a tunnel on a paddle boat featuring one of the most bizarre and horrific scenes in a non-horror film, let alone a family movie. It's not all fizzy lifting drinks and rowers that keep on rowing. There are a lot of fantastically smart comedic moments that happen within the frenzy for the tickets, such as kidnappers holding people for a ransom of chocolate bars, auctions selling chocolate for £10,000 pounds or more per case, psychologists analyzing dreams of golden tickets, and a snarky super computer.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Gene Wilder. He owns the role of Willy Wonka in one of the best performances of his career. Wilder offers a wonderful performance where he mixes his unwavering comedic wit with a dry sarcastic cynicism. Watching him act here means to watch a man at the top of his game, and you know you're witnessing greatness each time he takes his contest winners through the nooks and crannies of his factory. Oddly enough, despite the title of the film, Charlie is the primary focus, and Wonka doesn't even make an appearance until the second act.

We absolutely adore this movie. Even in our 30's, we still find it completely endearing and wholly re-watchable, and we would know because we have easily seen it a few dozen times. It's worth watching for Gene Wilder's performance alone, but the mystery, the magic, the music, and the fantasy of Willy Wonka's world is something we'll never forget, and something we'll never stop loving.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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