This is one of the all-time greatest children's films, largely because it captures all the right degrees of whimsy but still seems to have somewhat of an insane underbelly. Willy Wonka is basically the mad hatter who makes candy, at least based on this film's interpretation. It's so well done at times it's bothersome. Considering the movie is full of musical numbers and a few genuinely insane moments, I can't help but adore it despite the cheesy elements. It's kind of this psychosis that makes the movie work.
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Plot is simple. It's based off of the novel but is drastically different in a few ways. Charlie Bucket is the everyman or boy of the film, the oliver twist or tiny tim, the little guy who just wants a chance in life. He lives in extraordinary poverty and essentially eats cabbage soup everyday. Of course the subtext of the film could be that Charlie Bucket's poverty is what gives him a little dignity, but it's only kind of that. Willy Wonka is evidently a rich madman who holes midgets away in his chocolate factory to do his bidding, he is essentially a slave driver. But whatever. Theoretically he saved them from an evil island that has a monster that eats oompa loompas.
Willy Wonka hides five golden tickets inside Wonka Bars that win a tour through the chocolate factory and a possible "lifetime supply of chocolate". The comedy of the first 1/3 of the film is that everyone wants this lifetime supply of chocolate, including people making machines that can answer the question of where the ticket is. A psychiatrist nags a patient for the answer to wear the ticket is based on a dream he had. The first ticket is won by a fat German kid, the second to a greedy girl who nags her father to open a factory up to open chocolate bars (An operation which likely costs millions which is all the sadder considering the reward) The third, Violet doesn't really have any of these other problems like gluttony. She just enjoys chewing gum and yet likely suffers the worse fate of all the children. The fourth is given to a boy who loves TV and the fifth goes to Charlie, but only after the film drags out the fact that he didn't win the ticket at first for about twenty minutes. Still, the scene where it's shown he's won the ticket is so sweet and overblown it's disturbing. Simultaneously, an evil competitor named Slugworth is telling kids to I guess give him an everlasting gobstopper in return for 10,000 dollars which his family most likely needs more than any of the other kids. Charlie brings his bedridden grandfather with him but only before one of my favorite song numbers in any film. The sight of a bedridden man getting up and dancing with a cane is just hilarious.
I also love the scene where Wonka comes out with a limp, falls, and rolls forth. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is simply one of the best characters in cinema. He has heavy vocalizations, nuances, and beneath that a deep level of insanity. There is a thin line between genius and madman and the film makes plays on this idea frequently. Again, he resembles the mad hatter in outfit and tone and posesses only absolute insanity beneath that. It also helps that the sets are brilliant and the editing is full of great moments that makes scenes more ridiculous than they should be quite often. They all sign a disclosure that slowly becomes smaller and more invisible. I believe the bottom of the disclosure agreement says that children can be murdered in the factory .
Wonka's factory is like a labyrinth of ridiculous places, all which don't seem conducive to the development of chocolate but more of a paradise for a madman. The first reveal into the chocolate world is fantastic, with its chocolate river, giant gummy bears and huge lollipop trees. The song at this part is also utterly beautiful, largely because Gene Wilder is actually a fantastic singer and the song itself is full of nuance. I doubt most of what he does in this scene is written in the script, and most of his other behaviorisms are his own genius level of acting in this film. This movie is a perfect opportunity for an actor to literally chew scenery and he does. He eats a cup of tea that is also a lily. It looks like wax though.
After this wondrous scene the movie goes into its final bit where children get systematically murdered in Wonka's factory. Well, to be fair, the movie says they're fine, but I wonder. The first to go is naturally the obese Augustus Gloop, who is contaminating the chocolate supply by drinking from it. They were eating all the other candy but I guess the river is untouchable. So Augustus falls in and gets sucked into a pipe where he likely suffocates and leaves a fat, bloated corpse distributed somewhere in the commercially released chocolate. Wonka is absolutely indifferent over these possible deaths. But he is legally covered based on that disclosure, I guess. The Oompa Loompahs sing a little song about being fat and then there were four.
The boat ride scene is the most messed up. It's a true LSD trip put into a movie in a drug culture era. A seizure of colors, bizarre imagery and Wonka's bizarrely soothing singing. When he grows to screaming it's the most brilliant thing in the movie. Wonka gives all the kids an everlasting gobstopper in the next scene which I guess is important.
Veruca I guess is full of bad habits and eats gum that could contain a whole dinner but she grows to a giant blueberry and has to be rolled away. Wonka's machines in these sequences are poorly assembled and barely work. It's quite funny in fact.
Veruca Salt is the most obnoxious person in the film by far and her fate is not atrocious enough that she simply falls down an egg chute that determines she is a "bad egg". Mike TV gets an ironic end when his fascination with television causes him to fly across the sky and get shrunk into a television. Somewhere along the way Charlie breaks the rules and drinks a levitation drink that causes him to fly into the sky. Before he hits a decapitating fan he discovers burping causes him to sink. Had he not discovered that he would have been chopped to bits and the fact that Wonka put fizzy lifting drinks near a killer fan shows Wonka's intent to murder these children if they misbehave. You never again see the kids after they go, it's entirely possible they all are dead. It's irrelevant though.
Charlie is denied the lifetime supply of chocolate, and in one of the best scenes Wonka spouts gibberish and declares "I SAID GOOD DAY SIR!" Charlie could've given the gobstopper to Slugworth but instead hands it over to Wonka, who declares a line from Shakespear and then brightens up for an extremely cheery ending, the happiest of happy endings, something so heartwarming it's disturbing. Slugworth was a decoy by Wonka, Charlie wins the chocolate factory. They take a glass elevator to the sky (It explodes through the roof) and the film ends. This movie is almost perfect. There is plenty of cheesy writing but that has more to do with the era, but every line Wonka says is perfect. I especially like how he ignores Charlie through the entire start of the film, says only "speak up" type things to Mike TV, and whenever a child is in danger he casually lets them possibly kill themselves. The Oompah Loompah song numbers are pretty silly. Telling kids to stop watching video during a movie? What about gum chewing? Is that so much of a problem? Kind of nitpicky. Violet, I guess has many bad habits, as she also picks her nose. Gross.
Ultimately while I have problems with this movie, the overall presentation is fantastic. Especially the music numbers and the score. The score is so good that it really feels like a musical even when no music is playing. The effects are really good for the era and while some of the sets look cheap, the bigger ones look brilliant and the whole feel is something of its own world.
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