Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) / Fantasy-Musical
MPAA Rated: G, suitable for all audiences (I'd rate it PG for some disturbing moments)
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson, Paris Themmen, Michael Bollner, Roy Kinnear, Leonard Stone, Dodo Denney, Ursula Reit, Diana Sowle, Gunter Meisner
Director: Mel Stuart
Screenplay: Roald Dahl, David Seltzer (from the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl)
Review published December 30, 1999
Although Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was more or less ignored on its initial release back in 1971, it is now regarded as a children's classic, although some adults may still think it too disturbingly sadistic for their own children. Seeing it as a child, I never found it to be so, and no child I know who has seen it finds it particularly frightening, so basically the adults are overstating the case.
According to the story, Willy Wonka (Wilder, The Producers) is the world's most eccentric and reclusive candy maker, who decides to open the doors to his infamous factory to five lucky winners of a golden ticket placed in randomly selected bars of his various candies. The contest becomes a world phenomenon, as people buy billions of the bars in order to have a chance of obtaining one of the tickets. When the five children find the tickets, they are taken on the tour of the factory, but the tour is very strange, as is the guide, Willy Wonka himself.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a musical fantasy, perhaps a bit short on truly memorable music (save the first song, although already a standard before this was made, "Candy Man") but long on fantasy, with the imaginative events really taking off once the kids arrive at the factory. As a film, it is well-made, with competent direction and a very good cast, especially Gene Wilder in one of his best performances.
As a story, Willy Wonka doesn't always make very much sense or logic, as it's never explained how Willy Wonka would know only children would win his tickets and how Mr. Slugworth (Meisner) would always know the location of the winners and be there at the time they opened them. Viewers willing to suspend disbelief, especially children, will be rewarded with a fantastic moral fable based on Roald Dahl's much beloved, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". In this age of children's programming that appeals only to children that adults find unpalatable (Barney, Teletubbies, Pokemon) sometimes you have to dig out these gems where the whole family can be entertained.
-- Remade in 2005 as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
©1999 Vince Leo