Review by Steve Rhodes|
4 stars out of 4
WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the original feel good film from 1971,
is back in a special new DVD edition for its thirtieth anniversary with some
great special features. Almost all of the principals, including Gene
Wilder, the five "kids," the screenwriter (David Seltzer), the director (Mel
Stuart) and the producer (David L. Wolper) drop by to share their thoughts
about the making of this beloved film. Some of their stories are absolutely
fascinating. My favorite is Seltzer's description of how and why they
changed the ending. The kids, now a bunch of middle-age adults, provide the
insightful voice-over on the commentary track in addition to participating
in a featurette called Pure Imagination about the movie's production.
(There is one bit of bad news. The anniversary edition DVD only has a pan
and scan version of the movie, no widescreen.)
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's many songs, which range from the merely
pleasant to the wonderfully memorable, all share one characteristic. The
songs alone are enough to make you feel happy. It's a delightful and
Based on Roald Dahl's novel, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the movie
could have been a much darker one. Another film based on Dahl's novel JAMES
AND THE GIANT PEACH, is full of creepy moments. However, this film's
lovable star, Gene Wilder, as the potentially scary Willy Wonka, turns his
character into a real sweetheart with his disarming grin. Willy is full of
little aphorisms that don't quite make sense. ("You should never, never
doubt what no one's sure about." "We have so much time and so little to do.
Strike that! Reverse it!")
The story concerns one Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) who is so poor that his
four grandparents, who live with him and have been bedridden for 20 years,
must all share the same bed. In this fairy tale, Charlie's big dream is to
get one of five golden tickets to enter the fortress factory in which Willy
Wonka makes his chocolates. Somewhere in the world are five Wonka bars with
the golden tickets. Unlike the rest of his class at school, Charlie can
only afford a few bars, not hundreds. But, even so, luck smiles on Charlie,
and he gets his big wish.
There are four other kids in the world who find the golden tickets. Julie
Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt, the story's biggest brat, delivers the best child
performance in the movie. Michael Bollner, as beefy German kid Augustus
Gloop, doesn't add much other than his girth. Better than Gloop are Mike
Teavee (Paris Themmen) as a television fanatic and Violet Beauregarde
(Denise Nickerson) as an obsessive gum chewer. In this sappy but sweet
story, the simple message is that kids who don't listen can get into big
trouble. Willy tests each of them, and all but Charlie come up lacking.
Harper Goff's magical set for the factory interior looks like a Disneyland
ride. In contrast, the exterior looks like an old industrial building from
the nineteenth century. Helen Colvig's costumes for the Oompa Loompas, the
factory's chocolatiers, make them look rather like the Munchkins from the
Wizard of Oz. The film's fairly inexpensive special effects are imaginative
without the use of any computers. Actually, an old mainframe computer makes
a humorous guest appearance. This was back in the simpler times when you
could talk back to your computer by punching some combination of its six
buttons. But even back then, the computers did not always do what you
wanted them to. This movie, on the other hand, does what you want and more.
It entertains you from start to finish, leaving you happy and satisfied.
WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY runs 1:40. It is rated G and would be a
great choice for all ages.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, gave it ***. He said that he thought was "really
good" and "imaginative."
The film is available now on tape and DVD.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes