Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) Movie Review
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory stars Gene Wilder as Wonka himself, in an 70's adaptation of the popular children's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka tells the story of a poverty-stricken boy on a fantastic voyage through the magical candy factories of the Willy Wonka Candy Company. A strange and fantastic place, filled with dancing midget Oompa Loompas and chocolates with powers far beyond those of common Hershey bars.
Here, as he does in Young Frankenstein, Wilder makes his mark as an amazing character actor, specializing in the disturbing and wildly wonderful secrets of the world. With Wilder's Wonka as a guide, the Chocolate Factory comes to life as an amazing fantasyland, a place where anything, any dream... or any nightmare can come true. But there are lessons to be learned in a place where your fondest wish can be your greatest downfall.
The Gobstoppers may be sugar coated, but the movie is not. Willy Wonka deals with child issues such as greediness, selfishness, and vanity in harshly adult ways. Death could be the punishment for an adult sweet tooth, so kiddies beware! But Wonka never strays too far down the path of realism, maintaining childlike innocence throughout Wonka's wacky world.
Unlike other films, which seem to indulge the bad parenting and me-first behavior of modern society, Wonka dives in like a sugared-up Barney Fife and nips it in the bud. The unexpected is key, and each moment of the film brings something you are unlikely to ever see anywhere else.
Yes, at times the cheesiness is thick. And even though it may seem a little hokey to watch Charlie fly through the air in a glass elevator, somehow, Wonka manages to make even these most absurd scenes exhilarating.
Much like Hook or The Goonies, Willy Wonka is bound to drag the child inside of all of us out, lured by the scent of gum drops and Everlasting Gobstoppers.
The tale of the film's DVD release is as interesting as the film itself. Warner Brothers originally released it only in pan-and-scan mode. Most DVD enthusiasts (myself included) wouldn't touch a full frame DVD with a 10-foot Scrumdidleeuptious Bar, so furious Wonka-heads launched a petition campaign for a widescreen release. 10,000 signatures were garnered within a week, and only a few months later, the widescreen Willy was born. Whichever version of the disc you buy, you're in for a real treat -- the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack makes the songs fill the room, the picture is crystal clear, and the extras are good -- most notably a retrospective documentary that profiles the Wonka kids extensively (Peter Ostrum/Charlie never acted in another film and became a veterinarian). All told, it's a film I look forward to watching again and again with my kids -- the highest praise I can muster.