Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory ★★★★★

I wouldn't necessarily call it a requisite, but something that every good "children's movie" seems to have in common in addition to a great story, some sort of lesson, a touch of adult maturity, and unique, memorable characters, is a hint of menace.

Whenever I think of the best kids movies of all time, they usually seem to have this to them.  As an easy set of examples:  all three Toy Story films (Sid's room, the garbage bin of arms, the incinerator).  And here we have not only the infamous Tunnel Scene (in which I remember no one else noticing the beheaded chicken and calling me a liar every time it was shown on television growing up), but Wonka in general.

Willy Wonka, as played by Gene Wilder, is one of the greatest, most complete film characters of all time.  The visual aesthetic, the mannerisms, ticks, unusual speaking patterns, unsettling throwaway lines, and general attitude.  He's also clearly unstable in a terrifying, real way.  He starts off odd and only grows moreso, showing hints of the real man beneath the facade until the Tunnel Scene where we are first exposed to the real madman.  It's a great portrayal of the sort of unhinged, dangerous genius you always hear about in the real world who usually gets civilized and sanitized for film.

Watching this for the first time in years, and for the first time as an adult with an eye for film, there are so many details and aspects to the film I forgot.  I forgot how funny this film is, I never noticed all the social commentary in the first forty minutes that applies to today's world even better than it did back then.  I never noticed how interestingly paced the film is, that we are forced to wait and wait and build the anticipation for Wonka's reveal over 40minutes and that when it comes, it is so understated and indicative of the next hour. I forgot how specifically everything he puts them through aligns with his final intention, constantly testing everyone from the first second by shoving everyone in an enclosed space to see how they react to the last second when he tells off Charlie and kicks him out.  I never noticed how striking the cinematography of the Factory is, in the way the camera shows us each new room, or in the production design that never forgets the geography (as ever changing as it is) of the Factory in all the wonder and magic.

I could talk for hours about the magnificence of this film and everything it meant to me growing up and how my opinion on certain scenes has changed and how my respect for specific decisions has grown, but I'll stop here and just say, this is a wonder.  This film almost didn't happen like this and even without the difficulties of putting it together, it's a real feat that they managed to catch all this lightning and jam it in such a small, specifically shaped bottle.

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