Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Review

Perfection, something completely free of faults. That’s exactly what Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is. It makes even my stony, hollow heart feel rather warm and upbeat. The intrinsic whimsy and talents of director Mel Stuart, coupled with the friendly, encompassing yet distant and cold representation of Willy Wonka from Gene Wilder make for a perplexing, perfect mixture in this childhood classic.

What’s so beautiful about this adaptation though, is that it leaves a great deal up to the pure imagination of its audience. Dialogue throughout that just oozes a warm feeling, no line feels out of place or egregious, it’s all such a lovely, feel-good time. It has that incredibly difficult mixture of being designed for children but fully enjoyable for and accessed by adults. Pulling this off through a variety of lucid sequences that pepper in some reality busting scenes to gorge on, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory manages to pool together such incredible resources, and pull it off in startling fashion on a shoestring budget.

Make no mistake, there’s a definite bias to me talking about this film. I love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to pieces, and can overlook some of the more glaring flaws within. Some of the one-scene actors aren’t all that great, but for the most part can be forgiven since they’re trapped in the prisons of their comedy caricatures and never have any relevance to the plot aside from building up the race to find a golden ticket. This build-up is something I truly appreciated more on this rewatch, the factory itself can wait, a series of vignettes about the desperate attempts people are pushing themselves through to be in with a chance of touring the elusive madman’s factory provides some of the funniest moments within the film.

The lovely, dry wit of its British writing mixed in with the clandestine nature of the factory pair remarkably well with one another. Wilder’s finest performance, a timeless role built upon a mixture of sarcastic quips and memorable dialogue. Without question my favourite role to come from Wilder, toppling his later works in Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles with relative ease. The rest of the cast fare just as well, with Jack Albertson, Roy Kinnear and Peter Ostrum in particular all leaving their mark on such a finely crafted film. Albertson’s plucky, benefit cheating antics coupled with the innocence and plucky optimism of Charlie Bucket (Ostrum) bring such a nice leading troupe to the film, and Kinnear is always a pleasure to see regardless of role.

Masterfully crafted songs that seamlessly click into place among visuals that, whilst not thriving with extraordinary wonder, showcase a grounded level of realism to the factory portion of its imaginative wonders. A ballast for insanity, a rope that ties reality and the business side of mass-producing chocolaty goods inside of Wonka’s factory with childhood wonder. It’s absolute bliss, a rare example of lightning in a bottle. Everything falls into place so well, and with an added sheen of nostalgia to the proceedings, it’s hard not to fall in love with the film all over again.

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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