Mike K Watches Every Movie He Owns On DVD

Mike K

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

Year Of Release: 1971

My Estimated Age When I First Saw It: 8

As much as I still like it, I can definitely tell how this was deemed Rifftrax-worthy: many of the effects don't exactly date well, the plot and the acting are pretty mockable, it all just looks so early 70's, and let's face it, oompa-loompas are creepy. But I don't think it would have been the same movie without any of that, honestly. You can't even really fault the shrillness of most of the child actors, because well, they're supposed to be annoying brats.

The main element that makes the film for me is of course Gen Wilder's performance. I'm kind of biased because like a lot of people this is the first adaptation I was exposed to, but to me he just is Willy Wonka. He's terrific at going from slipping in Stealth Insults and veiled threats to kids and parents alike one moment and being a complete wide-eyed idealist the next without either canceling the other out, and one really does get the sense that there's no telling just what he'll do.

I also really like the gimmick of Wonka tossing off literary quotes - basically it adds up to a movie where there's jokes you'll immediately get as a kid, ones that will be lost on you until you're an adult, and a few you might not even get when you are an adult. As a kid I don't think I even got the pointed absurdity of the whole world going crazy over a tour of a candy factory, and the media circus spoof that ensued. Probably because I was just waiting for them to get to the factory.

The one issue I do kind of have with the movie is apparently the same change from the novel Roald Dahl disagreed with: The arguably Broken Aesop that results from Charlie breaking the rules and drinking the fizzy lifting drinks but getting the factory anyway. There's really no reason I can think of for having this happen other than someone involved in the film deciding they really wanted to do the whole flying effect. However, I have sort of thought of a couple of ways that there could be logic to it: Notably, this was the only time an adult instigated disobeying the rules - Charlie wasn't exactly protesting too much, but Uncle Joe suggested the idea the very moment Wonka left them alone, so that could kind of be a mitigating factor. It seems very much in character for Wonka to deliberately leave them alone for a moment, then covertly spy on them somehow. A bit more reasonably, given how the scene where they're confronted about it plays out, the aesop could actually be "being selfish and breaking rules is wrong, but even a morally upright person can have a moment of weakness, which is okay as long as you admit you've made a mistake and don't do it again".

This is definitely something I only see myself pulling out once in a great while out of nostalgia - in fact I bought it from a closing-down Blockbuster late last year and didn't end up watching it until now. However, I did still enjoy it despite it's slight imperfections.


Now, it's been a REALLY long time since I've seen this movie (at least seven years), but I thought that Joe was Charlie's grandpa, not his uncle. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, or Burton changed it to grandpa for the remake?
DrakemasterD 18th Jan 12
Yeah, I made a mistake, it is in fact Grandpa Joe.
MikeK 20th Mar 12
Watching this one again recently, I actually found that I much prefer the first half. The satire of candy bars being such Serious Business naturally went right over my head as a kid, when they actually were that important, but now the whole sequence is hilarious. The second half in the actual factory is still fun, but it seems a bit more designed solely for kids, Wonka's literary quotes notwithstanding.

Also, whoever had the idea to reunite the five kid actors for the DVD commentary deserves a prize. Especially fun is when one of them keeps building up to the "nitwit" Brick Joke that no one ever gets, only to completely miss the punchline.
Eegah 20th Mar 12
Yep, it did feel like they handed the Idiot Ball to Grandpa Joe and Charlie so that they'd break the rules. It does set up a good opportunity for character development later with their confrontation with Wonka, but you think that after watching two people break the rules and get punished that they'd know better than to touch a dangerous candy.
Tuckerscreator 20th May 12