Friday, 2 September 2016

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

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those kids movie staples that everyone remembers watching when they were younger, but then when you watch when you get older you realise that it's full of dark and delusional material. In fact there's a whole story surrounding this movie that changes your perception of the movie. The movie was actually made as a marketing device to sell actual chocolate bars, but no one expected it to be a hit.

There are dark undertones in this movie and they become apparent when you watch this as an adult. Some of these are quite obvious like that terrifying boat ride (and that is one is still so scary), but there are other more sinister things that really hit home, like the heartbreaking poverty that Charlie (Peter Ostrum) and his family live in or Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) keeping Charlie in a delusional state of thinking that he is special and unique. I know that sounds cynical, but when you watch it, you can tell Joe is trying really hard to distract him from the poverty that surrounds them. 

Watching the world descend into madness at the beginning of the movie as they try to find the Golden Tickets is quite dismaying to watch. That's because you could see an obsession like that happen in today's society. Not only is the obsession crazy, but the odds of Charlie actually getting one are so inexplicably low. But then again, the supposedly evil Mr Slugworth, Wonka's rival, is present when every one of the tickets is found so then again maybe the winners were picked from the beginning.

For a movie that is remembered as having Gene Wilder's best performance, it's amazing to think that he doesn't appear in the movie for a full forty minutes and when we do finally see him, he appears seemingly fragile, but it is a great piece of improvisation from Wilder. In fact the majority of Wilder's fantastic performance is improvised. He shows so much range in this one role that it's unbelievable. Jack Albertson gives the other amazing performance as Grandpa Joe, a man who recovers from twenty years of bedridden atrophy in about five minutes.

Okay, so aside from all this overanalysis, Willy Wonka is a fun movie with some amazing songs that will stick in your head for years. Granted they're not all memorable, but they are amazingly written. But the real reason to go back and watch this is to watch Gene Wilder's dry, sarcastic, excitable and heart-warming performance.

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