Wednesday, 13 August 2008

No.18 : Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

IMDb Link :

Although the book and the Tim Burton remake were called ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’ this 1971 version went with ‘Willy Wonka’ as the producers thought that their dim audience may think the ’Charlie’ referred to the Viet-Cong. And we’re glad they did as it means this holiday TV staple qualifies for the list.

The well known plot concerns Charlie, a boy so poor that the church mice had a whip ‘round for him. He lives with his parents and four grandparents in a run down shack in a town with no apparent social services. When local candy baron and recluse Willy Wonka issues five golden tickets for a factory visit we just know that Charlie’s luck will be in. And, after a couple of misfires, it is.

Charlie is joined by various stereotypes for the factory trip and watches in horror as each is dispatched in a cunning fashion and to an annoying song. Soon only Charlie is left but can he win over the mood shifting sweet king to win the ultimate prize?

It’s almost compulsory to have seen this film and despite knowing it backwards it was no chore to see it again. Forget Johnny Depp’s wimpy and introverted interpretation what we get here is the real deal, straight from the book in the form of Gene Wilder giving his best performance ever if you exclude ‘Blazing saddles’ and ‘Stir Crazy’. His Wonka is an evil bastard with no mercy and a penchant for child abuse. No not that sort, more the feeding them to squirrels kind.

The sets are cracking and more evocative than the ones in the big budget remake. You also get better Oompa-loompas for your money and better songs too boot.

To be hyper-critical I’d say the preamble before the factory visit is over long - we know he’s finding a ticket - hurry up! Some of the songs, notably Wilder’s, are a bit sentimental and as a singer he makes a great Waco Kid.

I did like the realisations of Roald Dahl’s mad candies and the casting of the evil, rival candy baron who turns out to be nice, so no nightmares there kids. The spoilt children are well cast and despite having seen both versions of the story several times it’s the original brats that first come to mind. The Charlie however is less good being all blond and floppy like a proto Hugh Grant.

The few faults I’ve mentioned shouldn’t put you off a great dark fairy tale that the adults will enjoy as much as the kids are creeped out.

Best Bit : Fat Fecker In Fudge fall

‘W’ Rating : 17/23

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