Sunday, June 26, 2016


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has got a lot going for it. There's the funny (Veruca Salt), the strange (Oompa Loompas), the freaky (that wacked-out boat ride through the tunnel), the silly (Augustus Gloop), and the just plain annoying (Charlie's mother). All put together, it's one very fun and unusual movie. Released in 1971, Willy Wonka is now considered a classic. Threats are being made to remake it with Johnny Depp in the title role. And you know... I wouldn't mind a remake, so long as they took out "Cheer Up Charlie..."

The film begins with one of the coolest opening credit sequences to be found in film history... the credits roll over images of chocolate being produced in a factory -- kisses, chocolate bars, you name it. Oh, how the mouth waters! Which is not to say everyone I've talked to likes seeing the abundance of chocolate. Some will argue that it's enough to make you sick. But even so...

So anyway, the main part of the film begins in the lovely town of Anywhere, Planet Earth. We have a school... we have kids shrieking and running out of it... and naturally, their first stop is the candy store.


And heck. Why not? Candy's good and all. Especially Bill's candy shop. This man just gives it away for free!

That's right. If you believe what you see in the film, he just throws candy to the masses. Not once do we see him getting any money from this pack of urchins! Bill sings a song, during which he smacks a little girl in the chin...

...which might have been an accident, but you just never know with Bill. After the song ends, the camera cuts to the window. Standing outside, looking like a little lost sheep, is the hero of our story, Charlie Buckett.

Which brings up an issue I've always had with this movie. In about three or four minutes, we're going to learn that Charlie and his family are dirt poor. They live in a shack, there's one bed for four people, and bread with a meal is practically unheard of. Yet here's Charlie, standing outside the candy store looking in, wishing he could have some of the candy. The man's just giving it away inside, yet Charlie doesn't take advantage of that. What the hell?

(Okay, okay, I realize that because the giving-away-of-the-candy sequence was part of a musical number, one must assume that the children really did pay for the candy. And I've officially spent way too much time on this topic. I just wish they could have showed Bill taking money from those darn kids... honestly! Would that have ruined the song? Really, now, would it have?)

After dragging himself away from Bill's, Charlie starts on his paper route, but not before collecting his payday allowance of a single coin. On the way home, he passes by Willy Wonka's factory and spends some time staring in the gate at the old buildings. As he is staring, a creepyass old knife peddler strolls on by and recites a poem and gives Charlie a brief history of the Wonka factory. Not that Charlie, you know, asked or anything. But way to creep a poor eleven-year-old kid out! Way to move the plot along, though. Very good. You served your purpose, now get out of the movie.

So anyway, after that encounter, Charlie runs home.

Charlie's got a mother and four grandparents. The grand 'rents are all bedridden and share the same sleeping space. Sure, it's weird, but you're not supposed to spend a lot of time pondering it. Charlie greets everyone and then announces that he has a surprise. And out from his bag he pulls... a loaf of bread! Everyone gasps. Charlie's mother, the ever-suspicious, asks him where he got it. And Grandpa Joe, bless him, replies with: "What difference does it make where he got it?" Right on, Grandpa Joe! Oh, and by the way, Charlie clubbed an old lady and left her on the side of the road and stole her bread but riiight, what difference does it make? Yeah. Well, okay, so Charlie bought it legally and fairly. Boring. So his mother is happy and everyone gets bread with their water cabbage tonight! And they all live happily ever aft-- oh wait, the movie doesn't end there. Sorry.

The next day, Charlie and everyone else in the entire world learn that Willy Wonka's going to open his factory to five lucky winners of a special contest. The winners get to tour the Wonka factory and will recieve a lifetime supply of chocolate. To win, one must find a golden ticket. The tickets are hidden inside Wonka chocolate bars. Of course, this causes a general riot. The next ten minutes of the movie are spent showing random vignettes of people's attempts to get their hands on a golden ticket. Among all the failed attempts, there are a few successes. There's Augustus Gloop, a German boy who loves to eat... Veruca Salt, a spoiled brat... Violet Beauregard, who chews gum day and night and is darn proud of it... and Mike Teevee, a boy who can't pry his eyes away from the tube. Lovely children, that they are.

(clockwise from top left: Veruca, Mike, Augustus, Violet)

Four tickets have been found... one left... and guess who really, really wants one? Why, Charlie, of course!

Now, remember, Charlie is poor and can only buy so many Wonka bars. Two, in fact. And when he doesn't get a golden ticket, he falls into a depressive funk and starts to question his family's welfare and his future. All hopes are finally dashed when the fifth ticket is found by some guy in South America. Charlie mopes. He runs to his mommy. And then she sings...

She sings a number called Cheer Up, Charlie, or as I like to call it, Two minutes and twenty-three long seconds of pure torture. And I'll tell you something -- I'm not the only one who hates this song. Check out these comments from the Internet Movie Database:
"I personally think that that overlong, painful, overly sentimental scene should be erased from all prints of the movie, and burnt."

"That song is the ONLY song that I ALWAYS fast forward through. Good Riddance!" 

"It takes 15 mins for his mom to sing about how sad her kid is. Then she does absolutely nothing about it! I think she is really plotting to kill Charlie and eat his share of water cabbage." 

As it happens, Charlie's depression actually serves him well. Because as he walks home from school one day, eyes on the ground, looking all sad...

he notices a coin in the gutter!

And, see, he never would have seen that had he been skipping for joy down the street, oh no! Anyway, Charlie scrounges for the coin. Hmmm, what to spend it on?

Oh, come on, like there was even a question in Charlie's mind! Of course he heads for the candy shop! He requests a chocolate bar and is given one by Bill. Charlie immediately rips off the wrapper and begins to eat the bar. But he hasn't given Bill the money yet. But we're talking about Bill, here. Bill won't care! Or will he...?

Uh, yes. Apparently, Bill's days of giving away jelly beans are over. The Wonka craze has turned him into a money-hungry storekeeper who steals from orphans and poisons the lollipops. Sooo Charlie pays up. But before he leaves, he decides to buy another candy bar... this one for Grandpa Joe.

Outside the shop, there's something going on. At the newsstand down the street, people are going nuts. There's a story in the newspaper that says the South American guy's ticket was a fraud! The fifth golden ticket is still out there! And since Charlie found that coin in the gutter and became the world's biggest optimist, he immediately reaches into his bag, pulls out Grandpa Joe's candy bar, and slowly tears open the wrapper...

Of course, there's a golden ticket inside. Charlie can hardly believe it! He runs home to tell everyone, but on the way he encounters Judge Doom... I mean Arnold Toht... I mean...

This guy. Yeah. This guy claims to be Willy Wonka's biggest competitor, Mr. Slugworth, and he wants the secret formula for something called the Everlasting Gobstopper. I failed to mention it, but earlier in the movie, as Veruca, Mike, and the others were finding their tickets, this Slugworth guy was paying them visits and whispering things in their ears. All very sinister, of course, but hey... Charlie can't be bothered with creepy guys in alleyways... hell, he meets them every day, as we know. So after the pleasant conversation with Slugworth, Charlie runs home and shares the news with his family. They're thrilled. The golden ticket says that one adult may accompany Charlie to the chocolate factory. Charlie wishes Grandpa Joe could go. Grandpa Joe decides, then and there, that hey, he's been bedridden for the past twenty years, but really, it was all an act. Two minutes later, he's out of bed and dancing around the room.

The next day is the big day. There's somewhat of a media frenzy going on outside Willy Wonka's factory, as Veruca, Mike, Violet, Augustus, Charlie, and their parents/guardians await that special moment when they may enter the premesis. Once they do, they're taken on quite a trip. I won't waste a lot of time on the events that happen before they get to the candy room, because, honestly, that's the best part.

Oh, the deliciousness! I could just eat it u--uhh sorry, there I go again...

After being introduced to this gigantic room filled with candy of all shapes and sizes, and after each person gets their share of sugary samples, the fun ends and the insanity begins. First, we are introduced to the Oompa Loompas, little green men who assist Willy Wonka in his factory operations. They wear little white overalls and they sing. Well, okay, in all fairness, just about everyone in this movie sings. But whatever.

So the Oompa Loompas put on a song-and-dance number. It's cool and all. The Oompa Loompas are quite fascinating. (Naturally Veruca wants one of her very own.) Soon after, Augustus, soon the be the first child casualty, decides it might be fun to lap up some chocolate from Wonka's chocolate river. So of course he falls in... of course he gets sucked up a tube...

Come, now, Augustus... what did you expect? It's funny, though. While the End of Augustus brings about some fear in the eyes of the other children, they do not appear overly concerned. They do not realize that they're next. After the Augustus Incident, Willy Wonka takes his guests on a boat ride...

...which quickly turns into the boat ride from hell...

After docking, Wonka shows the kids some more of his factory. Along the way, Violet takes (and chews) a forbidden piece of gum and turns into this...

...Veruca gets sent down a "Bad Egg" chute...

...and Mike TeeVee ends up looking like Nick Szalinski in a space suit. And after each child gets what has been coming to him or her, the Oompa Loompas sing.

I suppose it comes naturally to them. Anyway, soon only Charlie and Grandpa Joe are left. But when they try to follow Willy Wonka into his office, they get the cold shoulder. Grandpa Joe reminds Wonka that part of the prize was getting a lifetime supply of chocolate, and he's just kinda wondering when the goods can start rolling in. Wonka becomes irate and reminds Charlie and his grandpa of this little incident...

Yes, it's true. Charlie and his grandpa were bad. Sometime between Violet's blueberry episode and Veruca's song-and-dance about golden geese, Charlie and Grandpa Joe got ahold of some fizzy lifting drink and had a near-death experience. They assumed Wonka didn't know about it, but Wonka knowwwws. Wonka know ALL. And so, by doing that very bad deed, they had thereby forfeited all claims to the chocolate.

Sadly, Charlie and Grandpa Joe start to leave. But before they do, Charlie turns back, takes the Everlasting Gobstopper out of his mouth or pocket or whatever, and puts it on Wonka's desk. See, Charlie is a decent, honest boy who would never give a Gobstopper to Mr. Slugworth, not even for all the money in the world.

Wonka is thrilled by Charlie's gesture. Hurray! He hugs Charlie and gives him his chocolate factory and they all live happily ever after!!

I'm serious. That's how it ends.

Only I'm conveniently leaving out the part about the big glass elevator. But I think you'll live.

This article was originally published on my old website on February 4, 2004.

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