OK, statement number two: I am NOT a fan of musicals. I can acknowledge the vast amount of work that goes into them, and in some cases, their artistic merit, but people breaking out into song on a street corner while onlookers either don’t notice at all or join in the fun, well call me crazy but that just breaks the reality for me. So with that said, it should come as a testament to how universal the appeal is of this film when I gush about it as much as I’m about to (there goes the suspense).
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those rare films that is truly timeless. Watching it today I find the thing every bit as appealing as current fantasy films, and it holds appeal for literally all age ranges. Obviously the kids will love the bright colors, the zany characters, the 10,000 types of sweets coming at them from every which angle. The adults will appreciate the dark humor and subtle sarcasm of Gene Wilder, and even the senior crowd can relate to Grandpa Joe and the rest of the grandparents. In fact it’s the perfect film for a grandparent to watch with their grandchild (as long as they’ve got a bar of chocolate handy for afterward, cuz trust me, the kid is gonna ask).
Along those lines, Roald Dahl (who wrote not only the book but the screenplay) plants lesson after lesson for children throughout the film, which should more than offset the inevitable sweet tooth it will develop in your kiddies (and yourselves).
That said, a word of warning for parents (and a bonus for the non-parents): this movie is friggin’ scary. I can still remember, as a child, being terrified when Violet inflates like a balloon, getting the chills each time Slugworth (and sometimes the Oompa Loompas) would come on screen, and good lord, that friggin’ boat scene with the snakes and blood and God knows what else…hell that part still scares me.
But that’s just another ingredient that makes this delicious film so gooey and sweet; Like Wonka’s factory itself, there’s a surprise around every corner. With every door Wonka opens, our faces light up just like the Golden Ticket kids. Their ride is our ride, and our ride is theirs, and in Wilder’s amazing caricature, we have a most fascinating and capable host.
Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka (30:25) - Most of the time, I get bored by these “cast and crew recall their experience” featurettes, but this film was made so long ago, and it’s such a sweet film, that seeing everyone 38 years later, especially Gene Wilder, is a real joy. Seeing little Charlie all grown up and with a massive mustache was somewhat disturbing however.
Vintage 1971 Featurette (4:02) - Behind-the-scenes featurette, 70’s style. Nothing really fascinating here, unless you wanna see some sideburns and cool hair.
Sing-Along Songs: Pretty simple what ya got here. 4 musical sequences from the film, with subtitles across the bottom, karaoke-style. I’d love to see someone belt one of these out on 'American Idol'. Not that I watch that show. No, seriously. I don’t.
Theatrical Trailer (3:11): They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to. This trailer functions basically as a 3 minute summary of the entire film, even showing the final shot. Wait…maybe they do make ‘em like they used to.
The Blu-ray disc also comes in a snazzy book-like case with a 38-pages packed with all sorts of fun info and glossy photos. It's a good thing, as the special features somehow leave something to be desired.
Extra Tidbit: I swear to God I don't watch American Idol.