Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
No matter what safe havens parents may try to construct for their children, fear is a crucial part of growing up. Part of why Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory still resonates, 30 years after its release, is because Gene Wilder’s crown prince of confections is a rather scary fellow; he’s Puck, Loki, Pan, and Peter Pan all rolled into one. For every dulcet song there’s an unsettling aside, uttered with a wide-eyed manic energy. He’s such a powerful presence that it’s easy to forget that he doesn’t appear until almost halfway through the film.
Wonka, based on Roald Dahl’s classic book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is really about young Charlie Bucket, the poorest kid ever whose last name isn’t Twist, and his quest to be one of five kids to find a Golden Ticket — the key to a tour of the Great and Powerful Wonka’s Secret House of Wonders. Sadly, this 30th-anniversary DVD isn’t quite the kid-in-a-candy-store experience it should have been. Even though the remastered image is better than any rental tape, it’s a shameful full-screen transfer; it would have been great to see director Mel Stuart’s chockful-of-color compositions as he intended. The commentary by the kids — now all grown-up — is kind of slight; after all, how much do you remember about a job you held 30 years ago? The neatest part of the DVD is the retrospective doc, which boasts interviews with all the players, and while listening to the Wonka children is kind of boring, seeing them is a gas.
In an age when the kid-flick hit of 2000 was the creatively bankrupt Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it’s good to know that Willy Wonka is still lurking on the video shelves.