Thomas Willett’s review published on Letterboxd:
After 26 years, I have finally seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on the big screen. Oh, what a delightful experience it was - thanks in large part to TCM's top notch presentation as well. To go into everything I love about the film will take up too much space. Instead, I will choose to make this brief and explain why in a race between Roald Dahl, Mel Stuart, and Tim Burton, I would put my money on Stuart's vision the most. To be corny, Stuart took a Dahl book and made it Wilder (I'll see myself out).
I like the book and the prose definitely is engaging. However, there's something magical to Stuart's vision that elevates the story to something of bliss. While it is likely that Dahl hated the movie because his script got rejected, the film adapts itself to the cinematic language with a certain whimsical perfection. It turns the chocolate factory into a colorful landscape of invention. So many small details were added that make the movie pop. It may have the lo-fi nature occasionally of a 70's film, but it has Gene Wilder giving a performance that mixes antisocial traits with a declining sense of caution for safety. It's brilliant, and the snide remarks only add to the comedy.
While I still love the film unconditionally, I do think it works because of Stuart's previous involvement with documentaries. To some extent, his vision is essentially a dissection of consumerism through a children's film. There's a reason that we see chocolate being made and the first song is "The Candy Man Can." There's a sense of longing and the declarative statements drive the points home. It's hard to see the montage of lollipops and not be mesmerized. Even the many Oompa Loompa songs feel like small advertisements within themselves, as they present a worldview that best suits their brand. It's a subtext that I noticed more in Burton's film (though mostly because of my frustration with everything else), but feels like the right level of subliminal here.
I love this film and am glad to have found an excuse to watch it on the big screen. Thank you, TCM. Because of you, I have seen a good portion of my all time favorites in a format that I rarely get the chance to experience. Thank you for this wonderful experience, and I hope to be seeing you again soon.