Review: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)


I don’t know about you, but a chocolate river sounds pretty disgusting to me!

Screenplay By: Roald Dahl & David Seltzer
Directed By: Mel Stuart

I will admit to having never been taken with Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory as much as others. For one reason or another it never grabbed me the way it grabbed so many kids I knew growing up. It’s a hard thing to describe, because it comes down to a gut reaction or feeling. Movies can often be just that, no matter how well made a movies ability to grab you is what decides whether you like it or not. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is a well made film with plenty of imagination and a wonderful look, but the story and the characters never grabbed me.

The set design in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is some of the best I have ever seen. Not only does it look like a real candy play land, but each area is different from the next, with its own treats and gadgets to dazzle the eye. The first chocolate river world is vibrant and full of color, with some new confection waiting around each corner, or in each patch as the case may be, to be discovered. The craft that went into creating the factory world must have been great and I can only imagine the amount of care, intricate planning and designing that went into such a world.

The movie is a giant morality play, the characters exist as extensions of some sort of misfortune, or blessing in the case of Charlie, in society. The Oompa Loompa’s are the storytellers’ breaking down each segment and distilling the moral to be taken from the plight of the child. But, the world isn’t rigid and the character that will always be most endearing is that of Willy Wonka himself. Gene Wilder plays him just the right type of insane, he isn’t over the top so much as he is a shade below normal with maniacal genius lurking beneath the surface. The rest of the cast played their parts well, but to be honest they could be changed out no problem, but Wilder is Wonka.

Outside of not grabbing me as much as I would have hoped, it was the little things that bugged me about Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. I know I am being far too anal when these things get to me, but they stood out to me and placed me at a distance from what I was seeing at times. Such things as Charlie opening up his birthday present hoping for a golden ticket when it isn’t even a Wonka Bar. The gate door at the factory being open before Wonka has come out of the building, I know this was done to make sure they had a clear shot of Wonka somersaulting, but it was too obvious for my liking. But, the one sequence that really stood out like a sore thumb was the graphic boat ride. It feels like it belongs in a different movie, one that is far darker and more serious.

No, I’m still not as taken with Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory after all these years as others are. But, it remains a good movie that looks wonderful. It is full of imagination, and outside of the boat ride sequence is a harmless morality play that children of all ages can enjoy. Maybe it will grab you more than it did me, or maybe Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory will make you yearn for the chocolate you don’t eat anymore, just like it did me.





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