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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

  Directed by: Mel Stuart
Written by: Roald Dahl
Starring: Jack Albertson, Michael Bollner, Julie Dawn Cole, Nora Denney, Roy Kinnear, Denise Nickerson, Peter Ostrum, Ursula Reit, Leonard Stone, Paris Themmen, Gene Wilder
Links: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on the IMDb, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Children's

This movie gets: 9.00 (3 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 14th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) is also mentioned in mino's review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), pearly's review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and pearly's review of X2 (2003).

"Pure escapism" - a review by pearly

I don't really know what it is with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and me. But this film is my absolute, all-time favourite, dancin' in the streets, good-time, pure nostalgic joy of an experience every single time. The acting is mainly horrendous, some of the special effects are laughable, it's so over-the-top in parts that you can choke on it, but still, I love it with all my heart, and it's the film that I have consistently watched ever since I first saw it so many years ago.

Let's begin with its basis: the story. Roald Dahl is quite clearly a children's storybook author genius. He's written a great many awesome books that have been turned into some not terrible films, but though my favourite of his books is probably The Twits, nothing can hold a candle to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory film-wise.

The film can be split into two parts: the bit before Cheer up Charlie, and the bit after Cheer up Charlie. Both parts are equally good for their own distinct reasons, and it is testament to the amazingness of these two parts that I am able to give the overall film a ten outta ten, even though there's the abomination that is Cheer up Charlie in between them. Thank you very much Diana Sowle, aka, Mrs Bucket, for being so crappy. Luckily, in this modern day and age, it's fairly easy to fast-forward you.

Let's go through some of the top moments in the film, shall we? Yes, we shall:

  • Anything involving Mr Turkentine, Charlie's teacher (David Battley). This character is an absolute classic. Who couldn't love his "I've just decided to switch our Friday schedule to Monday, which means that the test we take each Friday on what we learned during the week will now take place on Monday before we've learned it. But since today is Tuesday, it doesn't matter in the slightest." speech?
  • Anything involving Grandpa George, Charlie's grandpa (Ernst Ziegler). Turkentine might be a classic, but George is a complete legend. I haven't watched any of the scenes where the four grandparents are in the bed properly for years and years, because I'm too busy laughing my head off at the daft look on George's face throughout. Honestly, is he even aware that he's in a film? It doesn't look like it. Love your work, Ziegler.
  • The scene with Tim Brooke-Taylor in it. "I am now telling the computer exactly what he can do with a lifetime supply of chocolate" indeed.
  • The Wonkatania scene. Into the factory now, and this scene is up there with the best. Some people think it's a bit too dark for a children's film, but I'd hate to see the film without it. Wonka's (Gene Wilder) truly creepy "there's no earthly way of knowing" song / monologue is brilliant.
  • Der Inventing Room, exercise bike bit. Another one of Wonka's bestest moments; it's not even a major plot point or anything, but I just love his "In Springtime" song. It is not at all uncommon to hear me singing this as I go about my chores at home, and it makes me happy.

Now let's go through each of the Golden Ticket winners and the members of their families, in ticket finding order:

  1. The Gloops. Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) is quite possibly the worst actor of all the children (though Paris Themmen, who plays Mike could be worse - the jury's out). It's lucky that he was born in Germany, because I don't think he'd have been able to fake an accent. His mother (Ursula Reit) isn't much better, and all you get to see of his father is that bit where he eats the microphone, which is just silly, really.
  2. The Salts. The absolutely horrid Veruca (Julie Dawn Cole) is definitely the best of the Golden Ticket finding children. Mr Salt (Roy Kinnear) manages to come up with some good lines too, so I give the Salts two thumbs up.
  3. The Beauregardes. Violet (Denise Nickerson) rounds out the girl winners of the tickets, and shows that the young girls are better actors than the young boys. Mr Sam B (Leonard Stone) does a fantastic job of being one of the most irritating men on the planet. Quite a top family overall.
  4. The Teevees. Ahhh, Mike Teevee. What a truly terrible character and a woeful actor to boot. His mother (Nora Denney) isn't much to speak of either, though I like all of her interactions with Wonka. And the biggest issue with The Teevees is that they're the catalyst for the dumbest part of the chocolate factory - Wonkavision. Stupid.
  5. The Buckets. Charlie (Peter Ostrum) is supposedly the star of the show, but there's a reason that this version was called Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory rather than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). There's not much to Charlie really, and Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson), his accompanying family member, isn't even his best grandpa. But you gotta love the Buckets, because they're the good guys.

The true star of the film is of course Willy Wonka himself. Wilder's portrayal of this learned (check out the literary links to his random quotes) yet completely crazy moraliser is absolute brilliance. Without Wilder, the second part of the film had the potential to fall flat on its face, but with Wilder, it keeps up the pace of the first part and sweeps you along for the ride, loving every minute.

Films of this time were straight into the action and along with the journey from moment one, and there were no pit stops, it was just bang, bang, bang, from one scene to the next (the aforementioned Cheer up Charlie is not counted). They knew what to do to get kids interested, and keep them interested, and they snuck in enough sly jokes and deviant characters along the way to hold the interest of the adults too. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory rises above all of its negative features and becomes a masterpiece despite the awfulness, and I'll be watching it with high frequency for the rest of my life.

pearly gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 30 Aug 2005

"A childhood favourite revisited" - a review by mino

Needless to say, I love this movie (but then again, who doesn't?) I must have seen it fifty times as a kid (but then again, who hasn't?) The big question is, do I like Willy Wonka because of the fond childhood memories I have of it, or because it's actually a good movie? Well, a bit of both.

For those who don't know the plot (where have you been for the last 30 years?), it's really quite simple. Candy-making genius Willy Wonka closed his factory many years ago to stop industrial espionage. But for the finders of 5 lucky golden tickets, a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate await — and dirt-poor Charlie Bucket is determined to find a ticket, even though he can't exactly afford enough chocolate bars to increase his odds. It's no surprise that he succeeds and joins four far more beastly children on the factory tour. Willy Wonka is a rather twisted morality tale, where kids who don't quite come up to the standards of polite society (everyone except Charlie, of course) are dealt with harshly. I'm not sure if any kids actually take any valuable lessons from the movie, but it's worth a shot, I'm sure you'll agree.

It's fair to say that Willy Wonka is not at all a shining example of the actor's craft. Some of the acting performances are truly terrible. While the performances of the main children (and associated hangers-on) are generally quite passable (Augustus Gloop excepted), some of the bit parts in the first half in particular — like the 'kidnap' and 'psychiatrist' scenes — grate, not because they are tacked-on (they are, but I think they are more an amusing diversion than a distraction), but because the acting performances go way beyond 'ham' and 'camp' into 'godawful'. Several times during the movie I was wincing at how bad some of these people were, and it's not even a 'how did I ever like this?' kind of thing, because I'm sure I always thought they were awful. There are exceptions though, which make the first half of the movie (before the man himself, Willy Wonka, turns up) witty and clever, rather than dull. I'm sure most people who grew up with this movie can recite the Tim Brooke-Taylor 'computer' scene off the top of their head, and the scenes with Charlie's teacher, Mr Turkentine, are all hilarious. Without these scenes, I think it's pretty safe to say that the first half of the movie would be a write-off, if only because of the execrable 'Cheer Up Charlie'.

But start of the movie aside, it's when the winners arrive at Wonka's factory that things hot up. Gene Wilder absolutely makes the movie as Wonka: his performance is equal parts crackpot, creepy, and clever. Wonka is a very twisted character, equally as happy leaping around and doing somersaults as he is quoting some obscure text. Wilder is absolutely perfectly suited to the (very difficult) role, and charges through the whole movie at breakneck speed. At the end, you're left feeling like you've just watched Gene Wilder putting in all the good acting performances he otherwise failed to do throughout his career into one good movie.

The movie also looks great for something made 30-odd years ago: it's bright, colourful, fun, and even some of the second-rate special effects are almost unnoticeable because you're having too much damn fun.

So yeah, Willy Wonka certainly is as good as I remember it. It's got a lot of flaws: but a great plot, a great script and a great lead actor all add up to great fun. I don't know any kids or adults who don't love this one, and with good reason.

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 24 Jun 2002

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 2
Number of ratings: 3
Average rating: 9.00
Lowest rating: 8 (by em_fiction)
Highest rating: 10 (by pearly)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. hmmm... that has to be THE greatest children's movie of any time before the 90's. it still is an 'everlasting gobbstopper' of childish fun. But,

    you're not gonna like this,
    you're REALLY not gonna like this, well, if you're a purist...

    y'know how there will be a remake of the movie being made soon, based on the origional story by Rold Dahl?

    well, I'M writing, directing, and producing my own version, based on the subliminal messages, the differences in moral values, the devilish quality of willy wonka,the industrial artwork of H.R. Geiger, and the industrial music scene.
    it will be a very graphic and terrible movie, using every aspect of the underbelly of american society, and i KNOW that most people will hate it. i don't care
    screw them. I'm doing this to show myself and the rest of infested america, exactly how interpretive things can be. it won't be very hard to do, but explaining it to people who don't care enough to open their minds up, and let me spit a dripping wad of disgust and insanity into their heads, will be difficult, if not impossible.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from jesse wetherell on Sat 06 Dec 2003 13:11 #

  2. This movie was nowhere near as good as the original book but thank god it was so dismal. It meant that a 'proper' version could still be made in the future!

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from Me on Tue 16 Dec 2003 04:01 #

  3. willy wonka is the coolest thing ever

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from sam on Sat 05 Mar 2005 11:51 #

  4. i think that that "me tue you" is really mean. The movie was so cool! I wish I had wallpaper that you can eat!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from samantha on Sat 05 Mar 2005 11:54 #

  5. The uncultured, primitive mind that gave this movie a score of 1 obviously has no idea what he's talking about, and needs to acquire an understanding of things deeper and more important than what color of socks to wear in the morning. This movie is one of the most brilliant screenplays of all time, and if the scale went high enough, I'd give it a 12. The new movie is probably going to blow, as I highly doubt that Johnny Depp is ever going to approach Gene Wilder's peformance in the 1971 classic.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Matt Pankratz on Wed 18 May 2005 14:46 #

  6. I love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory !!!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Christina on Sun 17 Jul 2005 11:37 #

  7. Poop!

    A comment from Red on Wed 20 Jul 2005 15:11 #

  8. Willy Wonka is a fantastic movie... it remains to this day one of my favorites, and the cheesiness of it all makes it that much better!! And about the terrible acting.. there are only a couple of actors who need some more skill.. like mike, but charlie bucket is just a little cutie, and personally, i think the cheer up charlie song is nice, it shows her love for her son, plus i just like the tune... i sing it all the time.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Katiebug on Sun 07 Sep 2008 02:11 #

  9. Pearly, I pretty much HAVE TO agree with you on the Cheer Up Charlie scene. Mrs. Bucket litterally looked like a bucket, with holes! I think that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would have, could have, and should have done a lot better with out her. However, she is a converstation starter and stopper. and that is why I love/hate her.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Abi on Thu 03 Sep 2009 11:18 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 8.88 (8 ratings)

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