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2 reviews, 101 user ratings

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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
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by Mel Valentin

"Skip Tim Burton's mess. Watch or revisit this one instead."
5 stars

In 1971, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," a musical/fantasy/family film was released to commercial indifference, but over time, it has become a cherished children’s classic, happily passed down between generations. Children who saw "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" on television or on video during the 1970s and 1980s have, in turn, introduced their children to the film’s enduring magic and, in some cases, back to the original novella written by Roald Dahl and published in 1964 as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The film’s principal financier, Quaker Oats, renamed the film to capitalize on the hoped-for introduction of “Wonka Bars” by (the “Wonka Bars” failed, primarily due to a formula problem). The name change makes sense for another reason: Gene Wilder’s iconic performance in the lead role.

Dahl wrote the screenplay for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but declared himself unsatisfied with the final product, in large part because the film’s producer, David L. Wolper and the film’s director, Mel Stuart, obtained the services of another screenwriter, David Seltzer, to revise the script (ostensibly to add dialogue around the musical numbers and to add a villain, missing from Dahl’s original screenplay). Dahl’s vocal dissatisfaction with the final product has led, almost 35-years later, to the primary justification for Tim Burton’s seriously flawed adaptation, which, in turning its focus from Charlie to Wonka, takes as many liberties with the source material as Wolper and Stuart once did. Having seen both films recently and having a nostalgic attachment to the original, it’s admittedly difficult to give Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory an objective appraisal. Caveat aside, the 1971 film has the benefit of standing the test of several generations of viewers, and after a recent revisit, mine as well. To be fair, whether Burton’s film will be embraced by generations of children remains to be seen. To the synopsis and review then.

As anyone familiar with the source material will recall, the storyline in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory turns on five golden tickets hidden in bars of chocolate. Said tickets give the holder (and one adult) entry into Wonka’s confectionary paradise, a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Newscasters from around the (Western) world breathlessly share the latest news about the winners, beginning with Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner), a gluttonous German, then to Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole), Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson), Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen), and finally, after all hope appears to be lost (including a fraudulent ticket found in Paraguay of all places), Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) finds the last golden ticket. Bucket, the poorest of the five golden ticket winners, is also the least spoiled and the most generous.

At the appointed date and time, the children and their parents. Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson), one of four, bedridden grandparents who share a single bed, joins Charlie on his adventure/tour of the factory. Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), until this point in the film unseen, appears at the factory gates, first walking with a limp and a cane, then somersaulting to show his physical dexterity (and his propensity for bending the truth as needed). Willy Wonka, it seems, is the archetypal “trickster” character, functioning to reveal the other character’s faults, shortcomings, and inadequacies, while manipulating events according to a hidden agenda. As portrayed by Wilder, Wonka is definitely an exuberantly eccentric character (he has, after all, isolated himself from the rest of the world), while never losing his ability to charm or appear affectionate (even as he dismisses some of the children’s more inconvenient questions)

As expected, the tour of the chocolate factory goes badly, or at least badly for the self-interested, egotistical, utterly bratty children and their doting, over-indulgent parents. At each major stop, including a chocolate river that winds its way through a groovy, 60s-psychedelia-inspired tunnel, an invention room, a golden geese (who lay chocolate eggs) room, and finally a television studio that miniaturizes and transmits real objects across the airwaves, the children are tested and found wanting (temptation combined with self-indulgent behavior proves irresistible for most of the children). At each stop, the Oompa Loompas, a race of orange-skinned, green-haired little people enter to sing, what else, the “Oompa Loompa Song,” with a new stanza for each child’s error in judgment.

One child, of course, is left to win the grand prize (and a prize even grander than the grand prize), but not before a final test involving the nominal villain, Oslo Slugworth (Günter Meisner) and the “everlasting gobstopper.” Here, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory diverges from Dahl’s novella (much to the chagrin of some fans of the source material), as Wonka erupts in a temper tantrum, humiliating Charlie in the process as he decries Charlie’s behavior (actually a minor infraction). But Wonka’s tantrum does pass, even as both Charlie and the audience hold their collective breath at the next plot turn. Suffice it to say, in the greater context of the storyline and the double-grand prize, Wonka’s final test is understandable, if not necessarily excusable (it does, briefly, make him more recognizably human).

And while Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has little of Tim Burton’s visual flair or production design (with a $150-million-dollar budget to realize Burton’s visual ideas), it does benefit from Stuart’s better storytelling sense and pacing (unlike Burton’s stop-start approach to storytelling, complete with unnecessary flashbacks) and visuals appropriate for its time period. To obtain a seemingly timeless feel (and to save on the production budget), Willy Wonka was filmed in Munich, Germany, limiting the need for elaborate sets or special effects. Stuart’s film also benefits from more naturalistic, grounded performances. In particular, Gene Wilder’s central performance rarely strays into affected mannerism or eccentricity-for-eccentricity’s sake (as Johnny Depp’s performance all too often does in Burton’s adaptation).

On another, related note, Stuart and Wolper hired some of the best songwriting talent available at the time, Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse. Their songs, from the “Candy Man” song later immortalized by Sammy Davis, Jr., to Wonka’s signature song, are catchy, memorable, and more than likely to elicit a knowing smile (and even a sing-a-long) from viewers returning to the 1971 film after a lengthy interlude. Burton's film, even with the usually reliable Danny Elfman contributing the melodies and lyrics, falls far short in this area (the songs are also poorly integrated into the storyline).

To take an educated guess and peer into the not-too-distant future, Tim Burton’s adaptation will be viewed as a misguided, overpraised misfire, a triumph of production design over storytelling. Ultimately, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" will remain the definitive interpretation of Dahl’s novella.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1187&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/07/05 22:53:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Horror Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Horror Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/17/17 Louise Loved this ever since seeing it when it came out - fantastic!!! 5 stars
8/06/16 david froman stanley welles is an idiot 4 stars
3/25/15 stanley welles a creepy fable featuring ghastly performances, sets, costumes and production design 1 stars
1/02/15 Catherine H absolute genius, and do ignore the worthless remake 5 stars
7/14/11 art the only HORRIBLE things in it,was the other kids{except charlie},and those oompa-loopas! 3 stars
12/17/10 Meetuna First time I saw it, it was a really good movie. But now it's annoying. 4 stars
4/11/10 Elizabeth Rhodes This is 1 of my all time favorite movies ! its family friendly 5 stars
12/31/09 Jeff Wilder A classic. 5 stars
6/23/09 art A TWISTED FABLE!,when you EXZAMINE IT CL:OSELY! 1 stars
5/05/09 Dane Youssef After over thirty years, this landmark in family films hasn't aged at all. Eternally young. 5 stars
10/20/08 Monster A Go-Go In a word, this movie scrumdiddlyumpcious! A world of pure imagination-LOVE THIS MOVIE! 5 stars
9/21/08 Samantha Pruitt a total classic, great music, lots of fun! 5 stars
5/10/08 drydock54321 the original is the best 5 stars
10/25/07 teah this movie is awsome it my mwga fav 5 stars
12/05/06 David Pollastrini lighter than the book and the remake 5 stars
11/30/06 Renee I am watching this movie for english and it is fun now i look forward to going to english! 4 stars
7/19/06 David Cohen My favorite movie as a child 5 stars
6/07/06 Peggy Doty WIERD 4 stars
1/28/06 James Tim Nina Overrated. Not Psychedelic enough. 2 stars
1/22/06 Quigley though the oompah loompahs are scary as heck, its in Gene Wilder that has the heart 5 stars
9/26/05 Carolyn Rathburn Absolutely love this one, Classic happy movie 5 stars
9/14/05 Pinkline Jones Dahl is the Rupert McCall of Children's Books 1 stars
8/13/05 Dixie Theriault i don't know why Tim Burton decicded to try to one up this classic-it is timeless. 5 stars
8/08/05 joeysquids 3 thumbs up 5 stars
8/05/05 Zack ONE OF THE WORST FILMS EVER MADE!!!!! 1 stars
7/23/05 C Vega a good movie and hasn' t showed its age one bit 5 stars
7/18/05 Brandy Harrington A classic! *blows whistle tune* 5 stars
7/11/05 Richard I loved it!! 5 stars
5/14/05 Rebecca Broughton I liked Charlie and how he didn't just think of himself and I though he was cute. 5 stars
1/17/05 chet what is the birthdate of peter ostrum in willie wonka 5 stars
11/30/04 BillH If you don't like this movie, you are a vermicious kanid. 5 stars
9/29/04 Liz Marie wonderfull timeless family film 5 stars
8/02/04 Anthony G I wanna fuck the blueberry bitch 1 stars
7/25/04 Sparky Either creative genius or drug-hazed garbage. Take an average 3 stars
7/20/04 Daveman For its lack of depth, the film is elevated by its sharp humor and Gene Wilder's performanc 3 stars
5/12/04 Sean Scanlan Kind of fun 4 stars
4/30/04 patience hoover worst movie ever seen!! 1 stars
4/05/04 yosharto charle is sexy man he should shart! lets bitchslap the director to china! 1 stars
3/30/04 The More You Know Still waiting for a sequel, The Great Glass Elevator, though this masterpiece stands alone. 5 stars
3/27/04 Gray has one good scene the rest is shit 2 stars
3/24/04 heyhey Some funny dialogue, diverting songs, but could have been so much better 2 stars
3/16/04 The Talking Elbow Willy Wonka is from hades, the oompa's are devil imps. But he's still kind of a nice guy. 5 stars
2/22/04 me a great film 5 stars
12/09/03 Samuel this is a fun and crazy movie!! 4 stars
11/23/03 Gi Gi Oompa Loompas are sexy 5 stars
11/10/03 KING EDWARD norma lehigh, willy wonka's coming to finish the job........................beware,norma... 5 stars
6/11/03 Ann It's like Dante's Inferno on acid, not just a kid's movie. 5 stars
5/11/03 Jack Bourbon I hate what's-his-name. 3 stars
4/28/03 Dave The oompa loompas are annoying, but there some cool gags and Gene Wilder is superb. 3 stars
2/17/03 WestcoastPunk the shnosberries taste like shnosberries 5 stars
2/17/03 scott A AWESOME FILM GREAT 5 stars
9/22/02 Justin Great film! 5 stars
9/08/02 Movie guy A GREAT FILM 5 stars
5/18/02 Norma Lehigh Can't get no more hakey and flokey than this! 2 stars
5/14/02 Blake This movie was one of the best films I have seen in a long time. 5 stars
12/03/01 Brenna S. This movie was awesome, it shows kids and parents at their worst states...being bratty. 5 stars
10/30/01 ruth wow! 5 stars
10/19/01 ElephantShoes Richard Wright you're a full blown idiot. It's WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory man! 5 stars
9/24/01 Bridgette "Pure imagination" 5 stars
9/16/01 Gary Witty script is let down by a barrage of sentimentality, but Veruca Salt was hilarious. 3 stars
7/27/01 Henry Ginsberg Always brings out my childish side . 5 stars
5/17/01 Bada Bing Crosby See it, treasure it, before Eddie Fucking Murphy does his inevitable remake 5 stars
5/09/01 J Kiddie flick Schmiddie flick THIS IS FOR ALL AGES! 5 stars
4/11/01 Andrew Carden Willy Wonka is by far, the greatest children's movie ever. 5 stars
4/04/01 Hawkeye Normally I condemn good books being made into movies, but not when you do it right. 5 stars
3/25/01 zeitgeist intelligent and complex. look past the surface, kiddies 5 stars
3/14/01 Richard Wright Extremely cloying, anyone who likes it must have a higher sugar tolerance level than me. 2 stars
3/10/01 mad hatter Great movie. I heard a re-make is in the works. Why fix something that's not broken? 5 stars
2/17/01 sheena b a child's heaven( adult's too)! 5 stars
2/14/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi You know you love it... 5 stars
2/01/01 Wafer this is a classic 5 stars
1/27/01 Soggy Bottom Boy The opening sequence is classic... Gene Wilder's best role to date, this is a keeper! 5 stars
1/22/01 The Bomb 69 great to watch while tripping on acid!!! 5 stars
12/21/00 Zach Harbaugh The film was inspirational and amazing 5 stars
12/11/00 Destruction Worker Fat kids drown 'cause they're greedy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/06/00 FRED BEST MOVIE EVER 5 stars
11/19/00 Erik E. How could you not like this movie. Its clever and poignant. Gene Wilder is amazing 5 stars
10/23/00 william arevalo excelentte veryyyy good awsome 5 stars
10/13/00 Jed Very good movie it is quite a classic. 4 stars
7/16/00 Emma I minute every love of it....wait a minute....strike that, reverse it 5 stars
3/31/00 Stephanie Flatten This is the most hot and spicy movie out there. It is my favorite! 5 stars
2/28/00 tasteslikegoat Has more in common with A Clockwork Orange than The Wizard of Oz. Depraved--I love it. 5 stars
11/20/99 Joey Great insight, dark, funny, Violet is fantastic 5 stars
11/02/99 Jacob Heule Scrumdidilyumptious and hilariously evil. 5 stars
10/27/99 Theresa Parsley Best movie ever 5 stars
10/18/99 Derek Rufer Awesome just Awesome 5 stars
8/21/99 Physh Parents: This movie will teach your kids that brats never prosper. 5 stars
7/09/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg Instant classic, but Wilder is one mean sonuvabitch! 4 stars
7/02/99 Sleeper I love you Mr Wonka. 5 stars
4/29/99 Sentaia E Very cool tho the boat scene scared me when I was little 5 stars
4/09/99 Michael Grimm Everlasting Gobstopper!!!!! 5 stars
3/10/99 Bats Definitely not the usual film pablum fed to kids 4 stars
3/07/99 BabbaBooey Original, funny, GREAT music: Gene Wilder is a Genius. The book was MUCH better, though. 5 stars
1/24/99 Chloe Marie Elestenogoph (clatter@hotmail.com) This movie sucks. It makes me mad because it's so stupid. And it goes on and on, too. 2 stars
1/10/99 twisted barbie pure genius 5 stars
11/25/98 little jerry Very distinctive children's film.What makes this special is Wilder's one of a kind role. 4 stars
11/09/98 Lord Of The Dunce Dahl knew how to write a great story. Some of it is a little too Oliver, but overall genius 5 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob A fun 70's dive into the demented imagination of Roald Dahl. 4 stars
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  30-Jun-1971 (G)
  DVD: 21-Jun-2005

  N/A (U)

  02-Feb-1972 (G)

Directed by
  Mel Stuart

Written by
  Roald Dahl

  Gene Wilder
  Jack Albertson
  Peter Ostrum
  Roy Kinnear
  Julie Dawn Cole
  Denise Nickerson

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