Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory ★★★★½

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is an old-fashioned fairy tale with a Wizard of Oz musical slant: scaring real lessons into children while simultaneously dazzling them with wondrous whimsy. For all the colorful set design and enchanting musical numbers, there is a consistent undertone of danger that perpetuates throughout. In this somewhat paradoxical aspect, Wonka's factory is the original Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter: reflecting back the desires and disappointments of its visitors right back at them.

For the awful (but perfectly cast) children grubbing their way into the factory, it's a substitute parent who left patience at the door. Their combined greed and selfishness will ultimately lead them down an unhappy path, and the factory has a wicked way of imprisoning them within suitable punishments (and even more suitable Oompa Loompa songs) that they won't soon forget. To Charlie Bucket however, it's a hopeful lifeline to simple childhood joy that his poverty-stricken circumstances have gradually threatened to snuff out. It, as well as Gene Wilder's infinitely absorbing Willy Wonka, validates imagination and the belief that life can be more wondrous than our own problems seem to allow it to be.

The film overflows with magic, but perhaps relies on it a little too much on occasion. Minor issues like Grandpa Joe's miraculous footwork or the near-comic omnipresence of Slugworth are aspects that may work better on the page, but feels a little clunky now. None of these are really problems to worry about however, because even if you did care, you wouldn't by the film's magical conclusion. That's because sometimes, logic can get in the way of a simple truth, and the truth is that Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory remains one of the most magical and important children's films of all-time.