"Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Gene Wilder undoubtedly gave the performance of his career as Willy Wonka in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", the first adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic childhood novel. The movie, which has the setting of a child's wildest fantasy, is not only incredibly enjoyable, but presents a sort of haunting story that has lessons of growing up and being appreciative of what you have. Even over 50 years after the release of this film, it is still able to send chills down the spine of the viewer when they see the glorious chocolate factory for the very first time.
Even though the movie is named after the famous chocolatier, the film is actually centered around Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), a young, poverty-stricken child who lives in a single bedroom house with his mother and his two sets of grandparents. When Willy Wonka announces he has hid a select number of golden tickets in his chocolate bars, Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) hold out hope that he will find a ticket. When they start getting discouraged because a slew of rich and entitled children are winning the tickets, Charlie is able to buy a candy bar unexpectedly, winning the golden ticket and securing him a spot on the special tour.
When he arrives, he finds that the other children accompanying him on the tour are Violet Beauregard (Denise Nickerson), Mike Teevee (Paris Themen), Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole), and Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner). They meet Mr. Wonka, who shows them the secrets he is hiding inside of his factory that has been closed down for years. However, when accidents keep happening and the kids are being picked off one by one, it makes Wonka believe that perhaps he shouldn't have opened his factory once again.
Wilder is hands down one of the best things about this film. His performance is electrifying, and he is able to combine his humorous charm with this sarcastic, annoyed attitude he has towards dealing with the children. From the way he can change his facial expressions so quickly to the way he can easily deliver such dry lines of dialogue that have such a punch behind them, Wilder is undoubtedly the best thing about this film.
In terms of the children actors present here, I think the filmmakers did a great job of casting those that perfectly fit the characters in the book. Ostrum is able to play such a lovable character as Charlie; however there are numerous scenes in this film that simply don't work for the character of Charlie and can easily make the viewer despise him. But, on a whole, Charlie is such a likable protagonist you want to succeed throughout the movie. For the other kids in this film, each young actor or actress does a fantastic job of being such an annoying, privileged child and it seems like they are simply like that in real life. Kid actors are great in playing roles outside their comfort zone or who they aren't in real life, and that is no exception here.
The setting here is absolutely beautiful and really immerses the viewer into the world of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. From the massive chocolate river room to the TV room, the set designers do a fantastic job of making this chocolate factory seem so real. It is even more impressive when you realize that the sets are made using practical objects and not using any real CGI or digital effects (besides the dark tunnel the group travels down towards the middle of the movie). It really is inspiring, and really opens the world for the viewers. I would even say that when Willy opens the door to reveal the first room of the chocolate factory, it is almost as powerful as Dorothy opening the world to technicolor for the first time.
While the film does do its job of entertaining, it also contains great messages of growing up and how to be a good person in society. Consider all of the children in the factory besides Charlie. They are all stuck-up, little snobs that want everything right when they want it. Because of that, they are then taken away from the things they want because of their selfishness. Then, when you look at Charlie, you can see that he is simply just a good kid, and the message of good things come to those who wait is simply elegantly on display here.
Even though this movie is geared towards family friendly audiences and contain great messages, there are simply scenes and themes in here that are incredibly dark. Consider the scene where they go on the boat ride through the dark tunnel. There are images that pop up on the wall that are straight nightmare-fuel, and it really can take the viewer out of the movie. These themes simply didn't need to be included in a film like this, and yet they are for some reason. I definitely think the film could have benefitted much more without these scenes that will terrify younger viewers.
As a whole, this movie is such a classic that will go down as one of the most famous and influential movies of all time. This picture contains an amazing performance from Gene Wilder, and really taps into those childhood fantasies that everyone has in their lives. This movie will go on to inspire filmmakers to make different adaptations of this classic story from Dahl, but there is something about this installment that will always be iconic and have a certain charm that will be remembered in the film world forever,