William Li’s review published on Letterboxd:
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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, directed by Mel Stuart, is an adaptation of the beloved children's book 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' by the great Roald Dahl. The story centers around Charlie Bucket, a kind boy from a very poor family with bed-ridden grandparents. In his town resides the factory of Willy Wonka, the mysterious and world-renowned chocolate maker. His factory has been closed for years, and when it is discovered that he has put 5 golden tickets in his chocolate bars, which in turn will give the lucky winners a tour of of the factory by Wonka himself, the world goes mad. Charlie, being the lucky 5th winner of the tickets, is whisked away on a journey with 4 other kids and his grandpa Joe. What follows is a tale of confectionery delights and naughty mishaps.
Now, unlike most people, I was...unfortunate enough to watch the 2005 Tim Burton version first, you might say. But you know what? I like it. I liked that movie as a kid, and I like it now. And you know what else? I don't think it's appropriate to compare the that film and this one. Yes, the base story is the same, but it's focus it's different. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is more centered around Charlie, while Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is coincidentally focused on Willy Wonka's history. Same book, same characters, different P.O.V.
So, with that outta the way, let's talk about this film. It is very campy. In a fun way. Everything is played over-the-top, especially Gene Wilder, but we'll talk about that later. The movie has this whole 'happy-happy-joy-joy' feel, even during its down times, something which I think fits quite well with Dahl’s way of writing. Speaking of the story, the plot of the movie, while detracting from the original book quite a bit, still gets the main point and characters across. And while I think that the ending feels a bit rushed, with the out of nowhere twist of Mr. Slugworth, it does not take away that feeling of cheerfulness you will get when you listen to the songs and the payback-cough *demise* cough-the naughty kids get.
Speaking of the songs, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse are the composers of this film, with Walter Scharf directing the music, and their work is amazing. The music in this movie is the key player in giving Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory its timelessness, with a focus on trumpets and strings, the ultimate instruments in memorable music scores, at the more whimsical parts, and with what I think is a harpsichord for the Oompa Loompa songs. And the songs, oh the songs. For the most part, they are wonderful, with the exception of 'I Want I Now!', sung by Veruca Salt, which I found ear-grating, although that was more on the child's voice than the actual music. My personal favorite has to be 'The Candy Man', sung by Bill, the owner of the Candy Shop. Just something about it makes me feel all warm inside. I think it's because of the way he sings it. I'll give you an example:
The first verse: Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew,
Now, here, he holds the 'sunrise' and 'dew' note for a bit and draws a breath, before
The second verse: Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two.
Here, he speeds a just a bit and ends the verse with just one breath. Something about that, and how the violins in the background swell up just gets to me, man. People say Wonka's 'Pure Imagination' is the best, but my heart is for 'Candy Man'. Oh, and Wonka totally should've gave the factory to Bill.
While the music has certainly survived the test of time, the sets are much less fortunate. The Chocolate Room still looks beautiful, yes, but the Inventing Room...yeah, not so good. They don't just look bad, they look cheap. The effects might have been great for the time, but now, you really notice the film's age, more so when it's supposed to be timeless.
It's about time I talked about the characters, and so, here we go. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka was...not I was expecting, really. Wonka in the books was much more jumpy and sporadic, almost like The Mask, and while Gene has his moments, he wasn't as bombastic as I would have wanted. Now, that doesn't mean he did a bad job. He is a great Wonka. He had the attire, the random word speaking, and most of all, the childish and mischievous glare. He just wasn't the one that I grew up reading about. That pretty much is the biggest change in any character, as the rest of the cast, including Charlie, are almost exactly like the books. Charlie is kind, Augustus is gluttony reborn, Veruca is spoiled, Violet is the gum-chewer, and Mike apparently watches westerns instead of gangster flicks, but that doesn't change his character much. They just replaced Scarface with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Need I say more?
All in all, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is very good musical film. If you can ignore the aged sets and rooms, you will have a lot of fun with this film. It's an emotional roller-coaster, too. Just seeing Charlie's eyes light up when he hears that the last ticket found was a fake, and he so happens to have one Wonka bar with him, made me scream 'Just give him the Golden Ticket, movie! Damn you!', before almost crying out in joy when he does get it. The music is still spectacular, and the actors give a reasonably good performance. A must watch with the kiddies too. Share the confectionery love.