Friday, April 1, 2016
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure Film Registry nitpicking.
I guess I better start off with a disclaimer that I have never liked this movie. I hated it as a kid, and then I read the book and I hated it even more for not being like the book. This is the first time I've seen the movie in at least 20 years. And my feelings haven't changed. I can appreciate the creativity of the set design (which are very 70's and very plastic-looking, but they're pretty good for the time), and I can appreciate the brilliance of Gene Wilder's performance. But this film has major, major problems with pacing, and aside from Gene Wilder's unforgettable performance and a few bright spots by various British comedians, the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable. And then there are those nightmare-inducing Oompa-Loompas. This may be childish prejudice still holding on after all these years, but I used to have nightmares about those damn things eating me, so I am not inclined to be charitable.
Overall, the film would probably have worked better for me if it wasn't a book. But I don't blame Roald Dahl for hating this adaptation of his work, since it ruins so much of the book. Charlie is a little bland in both versions, since he's primarily a passive character. What's more, he's a character who is defined in large part by his passivity – the important thing about him is he's an observer and a learner, not an aggressive child like the others in this very blatant morality tale. This is one of those stories where the quiet kid wins, though it doesn't have the extra layers of preachy sentiment that these types of stories usually have. Roald Dahl did have a fantastic understanding that kids do have a sadistic streak, and they love seeing wrongdoing getting punished and virtue getting rewarded... as long as virtue looks like something they can reasonably imagine themselves doing. Reasonably, most kids can cast themselves as not being a greedy, pushy little swine that insists on not listening to warnings, but instead tries to bear up under adversity. But that's also a weakness in adapting this book to film. This version's Charlie at least gets upset or disappointed sometimes, where the Charlie in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory seems like he just escaped out of a morality tale in the MacGuffin's Reader.
Overall, I'm not sorry that I rewatched the movie, as I can satisfy myself now that I in fact do not like this movie. I know a lot of people love it, but I don't.