An eccentric entreperenuer in a purple suit, a little boy with dreams and scores of chocolate bars. This is the formula of success for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a 1971 movie recognized by many as essential viewing for kids as well as adults. It is a much beloved treasure that is just that-a delightful gem of a film whose idiosyncrasies enchant rather than alienate.
This musical centers around the journey of little Charlie Bucket, played wonderfully by Peter Ostrum (who, oddly enough, never acted in another film again), a poor, down-on-his-luck boy who, despite being kind and likeable, gets looked down on by his peers due to his poverty. Charlie lives in a small house with his mother and all four of his grandparents, who all reside in a single bed because of their misfortunes. Charlie is, as well as all other 6.4 billion residents of this earth, captivated by the contest put out by reclusive candy-maker Willy Wonka. Five “golden tickets” are hidden in five random candy bars, which are shipped to all corners of the globe. The reward for receiving one a golden tickets is a tour of the Wonka factory, with Willy Wonka himself, and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Now, I love chocolate, but I’ve never seen anyone go after chocolate like these people did. Chocolate bars by the case, computer programs made to discover the locations of the tickets, people rushing into candy stores that get sold out in a matter of seconds. The mad rush for these chocolate bars makes the Beatles and Jesus look unpopular. Once all of these tickets have been uncovered, the recipients flock to the Wonka Factory. A myriad of different personalities (the glutton, the TV addict, the over-achiever, the brat) accompany Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson, in an often unpraised, yet excellent, supporting performance) to the Wonka Factory.
At this point in the film, Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, in one of his best performances) and his magical, sweet-producing factory take center stage and become the most memorable and entertaining portions of this film. Gene Wilder defines “over the top” in this role, but this just adds to the already prevalent humor in this film. The magnificent songs, as well as the astounding costume and set design, make this world inside the Wonka factory believable, whimsical and well, to use a descriptor from Wonka, just plain “scrumdiddlyumpcious”. The world inside this factory is so dreamlike that it feels as sweet as the candy that lines the factory from ceiling to floor.
If you can’t tell by now, I like this film a lot. But that in no way means it is flawless. The biggest problem with this film is its morals. While it does encourage young kids to believe in their dreams and allows a poor boy to follow his aspirations without being inhibited by his poverty, this movie praises, or at least does not condemn, gluttony. The first 45 minutes show the complete orgy of chocolate, which champions those whose dream it is to eat chocolate (including our protagonist). I’m not asking it to crucify the practice of eating chocolate, but this elevation of an unhealthy substance may be partly responsible for the childhood obesity that plagues our country as well as countless others. Ultimately, this movie’s morals aren’t about chocolate, but almost 90 of the 92 minutes of the film are. Also, there is a small undertone of slave labor that is painted in a slightly positive outlook, but this shouldn’t be of too much concern. In addition to these problems, there is the mildly troubling mood of the film. More than 90% of this film is upbeat and positive but the remaining time includes scenes such as one particular scene early in the film which features a man rolling around a cart of sharp objects (including cleavers and scissors) who confronts Charlie in the dark outside of the factory. There are other troubling moments, such as an infamous boat ride, which I find often humorous at my age, but I would not like my young child viewing.
Despite these problems, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a fun, whimisical, thrilling, wonderfully-crafted musical that mixes humor evenly and effectively between children and adults alike. After seeing this film for the first time in years, I renewed my love for Willy Wonka, his chocolate factory and was once again able to live this adventure vicariously through Charlie Bucket. This deserves its place as a well-loved film that gets viewed by many children each year and has a continually growing fan-base. Other than the aforementioned problems, the moral of the story is to follow your dreams and do what is right, and for this you will be rewarded, which is obviously a positive moral to send to children and adults alike. If you haven’t seen this, definitely check it out ASAP. If you have seen it (and whether or not you are a fan), this deserves another viewing because this movie is different then how you remember it-it’s even better.
Imdb.com Rating: 7.8/10
Rottentomatoes.com Rating: 90% with a 7.5 average rating
My Rating: 8/10-without a doubt, a movie worth seeing