Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Who Played It Best? Willy Wonka

Who Played It Best? Willy Wonka
"Who Played It Best?" will be a weekly poll on my blog. Each Wednesday, I will collect a group of actors known for playing the same character in the movies. You will have the entire week to vote for who you felt played the character the best. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

One of my earliest, fondest memories is watching "Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory" for the very first time. I don't think I can name one thing that didn't draw me into that film as a kid. I loved the song numbers, I loved the characters, I loved the sets, I loved the effects, I loved the props and costumes, the oompa-loompas, everything you can imagined I loved, and I still love it today. My most favorite piece of that film and my most beloved memory of that movie is the work by Gene Wilder. He was the best comic actor of his generation, by none. No matter what movie he's in, whether its gracious or terrible, he gives it his all. What was interesting was how he stretched himself in the role without coming off phony. He is reserved in some parts and not completely slapstick-happy. Even though he paints Willy Wonka with broad strokes at times, he is also shockingly human at moments. Willy Wonka is easily the biggest slam-dunk of Wilder's career. It was so good that I had hoped that nobody would ever touch it again. I never came out and declared that it shouldn't happen, but I had hope.

In 2005, Tim Burton made a remake of the movie, called "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I guess I shouldn't call it a remake. Both "Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory" in 1971 and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in 2005 were both based on the book by Roal Dahl. In a modern age, if anybody could give Dahl's book a pleasant redo, it was Tim Burton. Burton has always been about bringing the weird and the strange onscreen, and that's exactly what Dahl's book was, weird and strange. Bringing his old pal Johnny Depp onboard as Willy Wonka. Willy Wonka is a strange character and I think both Depp and Wilder both portrayed that strange-ness well. But I wonder who played the role better, Johnny Depp or Gene Wilder.

My Two Cents
This will be another decision that boils down to what you like most and what type of film speaks louder to you. Do you like the ultra-strange landscape of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, or do you like the weird yet family fable landscape that Gene Wilder created. Even though both films came from the same book, the film's couldn't be more different from each other. The 1971 film is easily a movie for families, something inspiring and uplifting. The 2005 film is slightly more faithful to the book and is a typical Burton film. The performances by Depp and Wilder are different because they both fit into a different context. I felt both films worked in their own contexts, but they are very different from each other. I personally prefer Gene Wilder's performance, I like how controlled Wilder's performance is, I like how he able to display several different emotions at once, I also liked how he was able to show lots of range within two hours of screen-time. I feel Depp's performance is a typical Depp performance for the most part. There are some nice beats true to Dahl's vision, but its also a typical Depp. I felt the role made more of a challenge for Wilder and I think Wilder really ran with it, and I feel Depp was too comfortable in the role and it doesn't take off like it should.

Which version of the character do you prefer? Do you like the dark-edged, strange humor of Depp or do you like the overwhelming, ranged-filled Wilder performance? Let me know by next Wednesday. You can start voting today. You can email me ( or just simply leave a name in my comments section below.

Last week, I took a look at 2012 and the two Snow White movies which came out that year. Two of the biggest names in Hollywood took on the Evil Queen. Much like the Willy Wonka movies, these two portrayals of the Evil Queen were different from each other, but a winner was crowned. The best Evil Queen is...
Charlize Theron!


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