Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

This film wants so badly to be a comedy, knows it wants so badly to be a comedy and, fortunately, actually is a comedy.

I would love to make that last line "and is very badly a comedy", but the truth is that Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory succeeds very well at it all.

The opening half hour charges all over the world, introducing us to sketch after sketch featuring characters who we never hear of again. Even Tim Brooke-Taylor shows up, surely reading Graeme Garden's lines, as he argues with a huge 1970s computer about whether or not it will tell him where the remaining Golden Tickets are.

Everyone does their job pretty well here, although for me the one element that clashed was the music. The ballads, though very catchy, just don't seem to belong in such a larger-than-life world, and even the incidental music is so brash as to make the whole movie more reminiscent of a circus. Which makes sense in the choreographed factory scenes, but less so elsewhere.

Still, ignoring the holes, and ambiguity as to location, it's a great simple story, told very clearly, and Gene Wilder makes his title role a hard one to pigeon-hole.

For my money, there's not a lot to distinguish it from the more recent 2005 version starring Johnny Depp, other than obviously that whole backstory about Wonka's dad, which is nowhere in this one.

Midway through watching this two nights ago I actually did eat a bar of chocolate. It seemed like the thing to do. It seemed only fair as I'm pretty sure I also took the trouble to eat one while watching the other version a year ago.

Now as I type this, I read on wikipedia that this film was originally conceived as a feature length advert for an actual Wonka chocolate bar.

Well, that turned out to be a far-sighted business move.

(available here)

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