Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Essentials- "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971)

The Essentials-#45

Willy Wonka and the chocolate Factory
When I was in fourth grade, I read Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I was vastly anticipating reading the book as I grew up watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," I couldn't wait to read it and I loved every page of it. It didn't feel like any other children's book I have ever read though, but there is a reason for that. Roald Dahl wasn't like most authors for children. There was an offbeat feeling to his stories and sometimes a pinch of darkness. Somehow though, his stories always had a heart and soul that young people could not resist. I feel like out of the 1970's version of the story and the 2005 Tim Burton version, I feel the 1970's version captured the essence of Dahl's vision the best.

Anybody knows the story like the back of their hand by now. A boy named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) dreams of visiting Willy Wonka's infamous factory. Charlie comes from a poor family, and does get access to sweets after school with his friends do. He's a unspoiled, innocent, optimistic boy, and when he hears of a contest to visit Wonka's factory, he doesn't feel like even trying, because what would be the point? How could a poor boy ever get the chance to peek inside a famous candy factory? By chance, he gets in, and the adventure he has inside is more than he could have imagined.

Ostrum only starred in one movie, then eventually became a farmer when he grew up. Good thing too, as we didn't need any Justin Biebers or Miley Cyrus' so early in our world's history. I will be honest though, if he wanted to continue acting, he could have and should have. The whole movie rides on Ostrum's performance as Charlie and he really nails it. We feel every ounce of Charlie's emotional journey and even as a kid, I really connected with Charlie as a character. Not saying he's the only actor who dishes out great work, you can't get too far in this conversation without mentioning Gene Wilder. I'd pay a massive lump-sum of money just to watch Wilder act again. He easily stole every scene in every movie he ever starred in. That is no different in this movie, Gene Wilder gives a ravishing performance that is charming, funny, and slightly outrageous. But every beat feels true to the story in the book and at the same time, Wilder put a unique signature on the character.

I love that the movie features normal children's movie cliches, there is catchy music numbers, bright lights, fanatical sets, big colors and it all pays off greatly in this movie. At the same time too, there is some slight darkness, which was always prevalent in Dahl's stories. The best example of course, is the scene when Willy Wonka takes his guests down the chocolate river in his boat. When they enter the tunnel, everything gets so crazy that I can't believe it ended up in the movie. I think its a great scene though and showcases just how weird Dahl's books got.

"Willy Wonka" pays tribute to a great book while also making something that will be remembered forever. I can't wait to share this experience with my future children.

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