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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

June. 30,1971
| Fantasy Comedy Family

When eccentric candy man Willy Wonka promises a lifetime supply of sweets and a tour of his chocolate factory to five lucky kids, penniless Charlie Bucket seeks the golden ticket that will make him a winner.


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This is a childhood favorite-and even though I only have seen it twice in the last 5 years-and though it's not currently on my favorites list, it is a movie I deeply admire. One reason is the songs. The Candy Man is so iconic that it's used in Madagascar! Then Pure Imagination, I Want It Now, the not-so-memorable but sweet Cheer up Charlie, the Ooompa Loompa songs sung when a kid messes up, and a few others.(I did not forget about Golden Ticket.) Actually, this is one of those movies that speaks for itself-if you have not seen it-you are missing out.


I've watched this movie many times and it never gets old. I have 3 boys - they are all grown up now with kids of their own. The remember this movie and remember the messages the ooompa-loompas gave to them. All of the messages got thru to them -every time they watched it. It should be shown to all kids now days - the messages and life lessons are still true today and they were when this movie came out.


Five children from different walks of life win golden tickets that enable them to partake on a tour of an elaborate candy factory run by eccentric recluse Willy Wonka (superbly played to the creepy and quirky hilt by Gene Wilder). Director Mel Stuart and screenwriter Roald Dahl use the deceptively pleasant premise as a means to turn the concept of the breezy and innocuous escapist fantasy musical that's fun for the entire family completely on its ear by presenting four hideously obnoxious kids -- Julie Dawn Cole's petulant and pampered rich bitch Veruca Salt, Michael Bollner's gluttonous Augustus Gloop, Denise Nickerson's rude gow-chewing Violet Beauregarde, and Paris Themmen's addled boob tube addict Mike Teevee -- who are terrible toxic products of too lenient and/or indulgent parents and hence wholly deserving of the harsh fates that befall them. Mostly importantly, while protagonist Charlie Bucket (a fine and likeable performance by Peter Ostrom) is a basically decent and honest boy, he isn't bereft of a few flaws himself. Director Stuart deftly crafts a light, yet dark and sardonic tone as well as keeps the immensely entertaining story moving along at a brisk pace. Dahl's clever script not only provides lots of sparkling witty lines and sharply drawn characters, but also offers a potent and provocative central message concerning morality and responsibility. Moreover, it's acted with zest by an enthusiastic cast, with especially stand-out contributions from Jack Albertson as the doting Grandpa Joe, Roy Kinnear as the long-suffering Mr. Salt, Leonard Stone as the crass Mr. Beauregarde, and Gunter Meisner as the sinister Mr. Slugworth. Kudos are also in order for Arthur Ibbetson's vibrant cinematography and the marvelously catchy songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. A sheer delight.


Apparently, there is no category in the Academy Awards for unusual or extraordinary sets. If there were, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" would have walked away with that Oscar in 1971. The set for this movie – once inside the chocolate factory, is exceptional, and at least half the draw and appeal of this movie. It is a delight to behold for young and old. This film is cause for one to marvel at the Hollywood designers, tradesmen and craft people for such splendid work. That said, the story is a nice fairy tale, but with live action all the way. Gene Wilder is very good as Willy Wonka, but this entire cast performed well, down to the most obnoxious child. One especially has to like Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe, and Peter Ostrum as Charlie. This was Ostrum's only movie. Not bad for a child star's single performance in a leading role. Ostrum was offered a three-film contract, but turned it down. He says that although he enjoyed acting and studied it for some time, his parents weren't stage people. Instead, he went on to earn a PhD in animal husbandry from Cornell University and practice veterinary medicine for large farm animals in outstate New York. I wonder if Paramount received any negative feedback for how it portrayed a couple of the children – namely the German boy, Augustus Gloop, and the French girl, Violet Beauregarde. I doubt that any Americans would have complained at the portrayal of the two sassy, snotty, spoiled and nasty kids. Most of us have seen a Mike Teevee and a Veruca Salt more than once. But the actors who played those parts, as well as those of their parents, were very good. One wonders, though, if it was much a stretch in a couple instances. It's interesting that none of the child actors in this film made acting their career. Only one had more than a few films. This is a fun film, although with some dark overtones for kids.