Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory ★★★★½

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted. He lived happily ever after.

I wanted to write a full review of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory much sooner, but every place in the state was sold out of bluray copies, so I had to wait a little for a mail order to come in. The truth is, Gene Wilder was practically a part of my life growing up. Everyone who watches films has most likely seen at least one of the 22 feature length films he's been in, and almost all of them are considered great classics. As much as I adore The Producers, Wilder's greatest role will always be Willy Wonka. The man was literally Wonka incarnate. He gives such an astounding and unforgettable performance that any other attempt at the character seems pointless in comparison.

Gene's personification of Willy Wonka is so genuine and sincere that he disappears completely into the character. I could never watch any other film with Wilder in it without at least once thinking of Willy Wonka, although that never really prevented me from loving any of his other films. This film spent so much time in my VCR as a kid that I practically knew every scene and song by heart before I even realized it. The first part of the story always felt a little slow to me, and I always hated the song the mother sings while Charlie is wandering the streets. It always felt so slow and boring to me, and I would always fast forward through it (because it was a VCR) to avoid being put to sleep by it. Honestly, this film would have been absolutely nothing without Gene. Despite there being a lot more comedy from the outside characters than I remember there being, the title character naturally makes the film what it is, which is probably the reason Mel Stuart changed the first part of the title from the book's. Although largely told from Charlie's point of view, the film clearly chooses to focus on Wonka and his eccentric character. Gene brings out his classic style of wit and unpredictability that always made his performances so memorable, creating an unmatched character that has reached countless generations of imaginative young children.

I don't take this lightly when I say that Gene Wilder was undoubtedly one of the best actors of his time. He was simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming, with an uncanny ability to make you laugh or feel soft inside at will. Apparently, I've only seen three of his films, so now is probably a better time than any to become better acquainted with his other performances. I can't believe I didn't see more of his films before now. I've always loved him as Wonka, surely he transcends his personality through his other memorable performances. Rest in peace, Gene. You are simply unmatched.

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