Monday, January 15, 2007

Movie Review: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory 4 Stars

An immortal classic, Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory is a delightfully subversive comedy musical aimed at kids, but with a nasty, funny tone adults can still appreciate. Adapted by Roald Dahl from his essential childrens’ book Charley And The Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka contains a terrific score by Leslie Bricusse, Walter Scharf and Broadway legend Anthony Newley, including the hit Candyman.

Willy Wonka is the mysterious owner of a candy factory, the gates of which have remained locked since young Charley can remember, Willy Wonka squirreled away behind them. When Wonka announces a contest in which the prize is a tour of the factory, impoverished Charley, who lives with his mother and four bedridden grandparents, delights at the opportunity. His birthday present from Grandpa Joe is a Wonka bar. Inside could be one of the five lucky golden tickets. To his dismay, the Wonka bar contains nothing but chocolate. But his luck is soon changing. Charley finds a coin, purchases a Wonka bar, and lo and behold…

The other four winners are rotten little spoiled brats. Accompanied by their parents and Charley, by his grandfather, the tour of the insanely-designed factory, its surreal confections and a trippy -- and bad trip at that -- chocolate river ride begins. The four other kids are caught, one by one, violating the fundamental principals of the Wonka factory. One by one, they are subjected to cruel and unusual punishments -- becoming a blueberry or being rejected as a “bad egg” or molded into a chocolate bar -- at the hands of Wonka and his dwarflike Oompa Loompas. It is all wickedly funny, if not just wicked at times.

Director Mel Stuart is known more for his documentaries than his features, but scored in this film with a fantastic cast. Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka displays all the subtly comic gestures and fantastic timing Wilder has at his faculty. Veteran actor Jack Albertson is at his most grandfatherly as Charley’s Grandpa Joe. Charley Bucket is played by Peter Ostrum and is certainly the least annoying child actor I can recall watching. It’s a shame he never pursued the craft.

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