Thursday, May 2, 2019

Disney’s Aladdin (1992) (Movie Review)

      May 2019 is going to mark the premier of Disney’s live action remake of “Aladdin”, and sense I haven’t reviewed the original yet, this is a perfect time for me to just sit down and discuss one of my all-time favorite childhood movies. Disney’s 1992 classic “Aladdin” has a secure spot as one of Disney’s most beloved Golden age animated films, and it’s fan-base is still felt all these years later. I was about three or four years old when I was first exposed to this movie, and it was one of the first that I absolutely loved. All these years later, I’d still rank this one among my personal top 5 favorites from what the studio has delivered. This was the studios 31st animated feature, and it was based on the story from the tales of “One Thousand and One Nights”. It was also one of the first Disney movies to combine its classic fantasy tropes, with an added layer of cartoony hummer, including forth-wall jokes, and references to other animated Disney films like “The Little Mermaid”, “Pinocchio” and so forth. This was actually one of Disney’s very first comedies, but unlike the later day films like “Hercules” and “The Emperors New Grove”, this film really balanced its bombastic comedy with a grounded fantasy/ adventure story, and the result is the best of both worlds.  

     Aladdin” tells the tale of a popper living on the streets of Agrabah, who dreams to break free from the shackles of his closed in life. On the opposite side of the spectrum is a Princess named Jasmine, who likewise desires to break free from the shackles of luxury, and wants to make a real life for herself. Fate brings the two together, and while they come from polar opposite backdrops, they can still form a connection as they both can relate to being trapped within their own worlds. The down side to pursuing a relationship with royalty is that you need to be of royal blood yourself. 

Into his mists comes a wicked sorcerer named Jafar who uses Aladdin as a means to discover a magic lamp, which holds an all-powerful genie capable of granting three wishes. With such power at his hands, Aladdin wishes to become a prince of royal heritage, and someone capable of marrying the Princess. Much in the spirit of “Cinereal”, “Aladdin” is a story of “Rags to Riches”, but there’s a very important element thrown into the mix that makes this story unique. Though the course of the film we see Aladdin’s valor and nobility on display as he willingly gives all his food to some homeless children, later comes to their rescue without batting an eye, and even comes to Jasmines aid just on the moral grounds that it’s the right thing to do. Everyone sees Aladdin for the good man he his, but there’s one person who’s in denial, and that’s Aladdin himself. Aladdin doubts his own qualities and value so much that he fully commits to his Prince role, fearing that he’s nothing without it. Unlike most other hero’s that need to prove something of themselves, Aladdin has to discover his own worth deep within. The concept of discovering yourself makes for a great story with moral subtext, and it makes Aladdin one of Disney’s most well-rounded heroes.                    

      However, for as great as Aladdin is as a main character, it’s The Genie voiced by the late Robin Williams who completely owns this movie. I always felt that you’re a true Disney fan at heart if you placed The Genie among your top 10 favorite animated characters, because he absolutely is one of the greatest to ever come from the studio. Unlike the later day animated Disney films which featured celebrates voicing comedic side characters, Robin Williams brought something special to this role that none of the others could duplicate. I felt that all those other goofball characters voiced by Jason Alexander, Eddie Murphy, Danny DeVito, and Rosie O' Donnell could have been voiced by anyone, and it wouldn’t affect the characters in any way. The Genie by contrast is the animated embodiment of Robin Williams as we all saw him … which is someone with a highly animated personality, but with a heart of gold that’s always shining through. While this was technically my introduction to Robin Williams, I didn’t really know the actor until I saw both “Jumanji” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”. Once I became a fan of Robin Williams, it was such a treat discovering that he was the voice of one of my favorite animated Disney characters. His improve and pop-culture references were highly entertaining, but there even funnier as an adult because now I know which actors, celebrities, or movies he’s referencing.  

     Now, if there was any other character who could chew more scenery then the Genie, it would be the villain Jafar, who’s brilliantly voiced by Jonathan Freeman. It’s no competition that Jafar has a secure spot among my top three favorite Disney villains. In general, I love when the bad guy has a wide range of theatrics, and Jafar runs the whole gambit. He can be quiet, and sinister with that slithery voice, yet he can also be loud, over the top, and laugh maniacally. 

It's everything I enjoy from a villain in one package. While he functions as a threat, he also has a reserved sense of hummer that makes him a joy to watch. SALTON: “This is Jafar, and he’s delighted to meet you too”. JAFAR sarcastically responds: “Ecstatic”. I especially love his design, which makes me think of an Arabian Count Dracula. Sense Jafar was one of the first villains I was ever exposed too, he set the templet for how I wanted a villain to look … which is a long cape, a recognizable head peace, and a signature hand-held item that ties everything together. It’s something that, as a kid I always referred to as “the Jafar look”. Thus, future villains I’d later be exposed to like Darth Vader, Judge Doom, Loki, Count Dracula, Magneto, and especially Lucius Malfoy all grabbed my interest, as each of their designs reminded me of Jafar in some way. Also, just like how Maleficent always seemed to stand out as the chief figure head of the female villains, Jafar always stood out to me as the chief figure head of the male villains. Heck, there was a direct to video movie back in 2002 titled “Mickey's House of Villains”, which revolved around all the Disney baddies taking over, and who else but Jafar was acting as the ringleader.   

      Another one of my favorite characters who I feel doesn’t get enough credit is actually the magic carpet. This flying rug can’t speak, and has no face to make expressions, yet so much charm and personality leaps from the character, just from how he’s animated. What could have easily been simplified to a mode of transportation for Aladdin, became one of the most lovable additions to the film. I must confess that the one character who never did anything for me was Aladdin’s sidekick monkey named Abu. 

He was functional, and I’ll always give credit to the vocal talents of Frank Welker, but there was just something about Abu that annoyed me. I’d much rather take Jasmines sidekick tiger Rajah, as I’ve loved tigers my whole life, and the idea of having one for a pet is the coolest thing ever. Then of course there’s Jafar’s sidekick bird named Iago, who’s voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. While I’ve never been a fan of the actor (certainly not a fan of his voice), he at least has a very animated personality that carries over seamlessly into his cartoon character. Iago would of course gain a reputation as one of the most iconic evil Disney henchmen, and in future films would make a full reformation as one of the main heroes of the series. I also have to give credit to the late Douglas Seale, who’s very lovable as the dimwitted Sultan. He basically takes what could have been a one note buffoon, and in turn makes The Sultan very likable with his naive innocents. Just as a quick side note, one of my favorite Easter Eggs is seeing a figurine of The Beast from “Beauty and the Beast” among The Sultan’s toy collection. Well before the age of the internet, I remember sighting that as a little kid, and back then I thought I made some kind of incredible discovery that I had to share with all my friends.        

     Rounding up the characters is Jasmine, who naturally is one of Disney’s most iconic leading Princess. 
While I’ve always categorized “Aladdin” as one of Disney’s action hero movies along the likes of “Hercules”, “Robin Hood” and “Mulan”, Jasmine’s popularity has made it impossible to separate this film from the animated Disney princess catalog. I suppose that’s not a bad thing, as the film can appeal to both boys and girls on equal measure. Jasmine was one of the first princesses to be rebellious of her title, and had more of an attitude to offset her glamorous looks. Also, while there are two incidents in which she needs to be rescued, I’d never categorize her as a damsel stereotype. Over the course of the film, she proves capable of adapting to situations, and she does so without showing off. Despite being able to talk back, and put up a fight, she certainly maintains the same loving nature of other female leads, and so much of that is due to the vocal talents of Linda Larkin. This is probably my favorite vocal performance of any Disney Princess, and her voice has great range from strong and dignified to delicate and beautiful. If I had any reservations with Jasmine, it would be that she's supposedly 15 years old ... and that is not a body that goes with a 15 year old girl. A word to the wise, if your going to dress your princess in a very skimpy outfit, and give her the look and figure of someone in their early to mid-twenties, then please just make her that age. Jasmine's age also makes it all the more unsettling later in the film when Jafar gets turned on by her, and the thought of a forty-something year old man looking up and down and half naked 15 year old girl has me pulling on my shirt collar.   

      The romance between Jasmine and Aladdin is likewise one of the best featured in any Disney movie. Usually the Disney couples do their part for the film, but never leave much of an impression on me, yet the romance between these two really adds to the film’s strengths. The scene in which the two meet for the first time is about as adorable and perfect as they get. We have Aladdin leaping to her rescue, scamming a cranky coachman into believing she’s a crazy sister, and Jasmine doesn’t need a minute to play along with his facade. 

There’s instant chemistry played off the two, and their ensuing conversation really highlights their connection as they both can related to being trapped in their own lives. They also share my favorite kiss of any Disney couple, specifically the scene with the two on the balcony. With the one exception of “Lady and the Tramp”, there’s never been a kiss from a Disney couple that felt so in the moment, and so exciting as that sudden kiss shared between the two on the balcony. Of course, the Oscar winning song “A Whole New World” is about as great as romantic Disney songs get. Typically, when I was a kid, I always got board with the romance songs, but this one featured our couple flying through the sky, traveling to various locations, and the song itself has quiet the rousing tempo to boot. Also, seeing them fly to Greece and China always felt like a sneak peek for upcoming Disney films set in those locations. Personally, I’ve always wanted to see a special edition of “Aladdin” that inserts Hercules and Meg into that moment when they fly over Greece. It would have just been a cool in-universe moment to see the one Disney couple looking up other flying overhead, and maybe the two could exchange a wave … but that’s just me being a fan.       

      On that note, there’s no reviewing “Aladdin” without acknowledging the films outstanding soundtrack. Every single song is a highly entertaining toe-taper, and the lyrics are mostly unforgettable. Even in a song like “One Jump Ahead”, which has really quick, hard to follow lyrics, still has a rhythm and tempo that sticks with us. 
The Genies “Never had a Friend like Me” is of course another iconic song number, and received an Oscar nomination for best original song. Aside from containing some really catchy lyrics, the song itself just has a really colorful, bouncy and uniquely animated presentation. The opening “Arabian Knights” song has been the subject of controversy for some of its lyrics, which have been changed around for the majority of the home video releases. It’s still an engaging intro song, and something that I’ve always connected to my childhood nostalgia of watching the animated “Aladdin” tv show. 

My favorite musical number is actually the “Prince Ali” parade sequence. Aside from being yet another colorful party number, this is the only song that features every one of our characters on screen, and the quire that builds during the closing lyrics of the song is outstanding. Yet, with all that said, my absolute favorite song of all is “Proud of your Boy” … which was a song deleted from the final cut of the film. There was originally going to be a subplot in the film revolving around Aladdin’s mother, and this song was meant to be an emotional highlight. Unfortunately, the mother was cut from the film all together, and thus, my favorite song had no place in the movie. This song gets me in “the feels” on so many levels, and so much of it I can attribute to my own relationship with my mother. I’m currently single, but I’ve always planed that, if I ever get married, this will be the song playing while I dance with my mom.

     The Animation of course has aged remarkably well, even when compared to modern animation. The colors on display are wonderful, and the lighting is extraordinary. I especially love how the lighting mixes with the characters skin colors. For example, when Aladdin and Jasmine are on the balcony, their skin is lit by lamp, which then transitions into moon lighting on their skin as their romantic flight begins, and it looks great. Even the added CGI elements have held up over the years. The sequences with Aladdin flying through rivers of lava is still very exciting, and I’ve always loved the digital design of the Cave of Wonders. The whole world of Aladdin is one of my favorites, as it doesn’t look like real Arabia, but it still looks unique and highly decorative. There’s also a consistent fun factor to “Aladdin” that never lets down, but it also never goes to far with the excitement that it takes away from either the characters, or even substance of the film.  

    Now we come to the third act of the movie, in which Jafar steels the lamp, takes control of the Genie’s magic, and becomes the new ruler of the land. This leads into one of my all-time favorite climaxes from any Disney movie … the final showdown between Aladdin and Jafar. This battle seemed to have everything, including sword fighting, bursts of comedy, giant monsters, and a villain who goes all out with a variety of magic powers on display.

I especially love the overall design and lighting of this sequence, as the once warm and vibrantly colored palace becomes a hellish red. I also loved that for once we finally have a princess using her feminine wiles to keep the villain at bay, while Aladdin gets to work. Of course, this fight builds to one of my favorite villain quotes … “A snake am I … Perhaps you’d like to see how snake like I can be!” Back when I was a kid, I was obsessed with snakes, so seeing a first-rate villain like Jafar transform into a giant King Cobra was an absolute thrill. There’s also some well-placed tension with our Princess trapped in an hour-glass that’s slowly running out. It brings to mind the deadly hour glass from “The Wizard of Oz”, except this time I absolutely feel the urgency as the sand runs out. Actually, this whole final battle feels like a call back to the climax from “Sleeping Beauty”, as we have a sword wielding hero, racing to rescue a princess, from a magical villain, who takes on the form of a monstrous creature. The one difference is that our hero uses his smarts and wits to concur his enemy, as opposed to brut strength, or the aid of a magical companion. While this whole third act was very action heavy and featured a villain steeling a lot of scenery, Aladdin’s actions here tie everything back into the films overall moral of discovering one’s inner strengths.         

     In the end, “Aladdin” is one of those special animated films that I’ve just kept with me though the years. Obviously, there was a number of Disney films I loved watching when I was a kid, but only a hand full have retained their enchanted feel into my adult hood. In short, my feelings for “Aladdin” have only gotten stronger, to the point where I might even like it more as an adult then when I was a kid. I understand more of the adult jokes now, and I admire the animated aesthetic of the film far more today with our overabundance of CGI animation. It’s likewise a film that’s high on the entertainment value, but with just enough of a moral at the center to give the experience it’s substance. What more do I even need to say about this one? The characters are all scene stealers, the songs are unforgettable, the design is gorgeous … it’s Disney’s “Aladdin”, plain and simply one of the best contributions from Disney’s renascence area, and one of the best animated films to ever come from the studio.

I give Disney’s 1992 animated classic “Aladdin” … a perfect 5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) (Movie Review)

      It’s the Easter season again, and traditionally around this time of year I review something with a religious backdrop. This year however, I wanted to do something different … but what to discuss? Other general Easter themed movies are hard to come by, and most of them are terrible. Well ... there just happens to be a little movie from 1971 that I find myself re-watching around this time of year … the family musical classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. While the film obviously has no direct tie-in with the holiday, there’s still something magical about it, the look of it, and the feel of it that just fits right along with all the decorations, colors and treats found in the Easter baskets of the season. Initially when I was a kid, I had heard of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, but didn’t have any initial interest in watching it, as a film revolving around a boy visiting a candy factory just sounded boring to me. Much to my good fortune, I saw the movie for the first time during a third-grade class, and I distinctly remember saying to myself when it was done … “that’s a film I’ll be keeping with me for life”. There’s really no point it building up the film any more, as it’s often cited as a motion picture classic. Never the less, I’m in the mood to talk about one of my childhood favorites, and hopefully in the process I'll remind modern viewers why it’s deserving of it’s favored title. Also, in this review, I’ll be comparing some things with the original book written by Roald Dahl, as the popularity of the film dose frequently overshadow an otherwise great children’s book.

      The film is adapted by the children’s book titled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, which was authored by the aforementioned Roald Dahl. Charlie Bucket is a small boy who comes from a poor family, and despite his living conditions, he tries his best to be optimistic, and loving. Yet deep down, he wants something special to wish for, and dream of. 
One thing that lingers on his mind is the mysterious Wonka chocolate factory, which is in full production, producing sweet’s for kids, but it remains locked, with no-one ever going in or out. What secrets lie within, what delicious treasure could be discovered, and just who’s operating the factory when no-one is ever seen entering the building. One day, it’s announced that five golden tickets have been hidden within select chocolate bars, and the lucky winners get a special tour of the factory, and one child will be given the greatest surprise gift of all. The first half of the movie focuses on the Wonka contest, as we meet our five principle children who find the tickets, four of which are spoiled, self-centered brats. Most importantly we spend time with Charlie in his everyday life as the competition unfolds around him. 

The second half is the tour of the factory, and the point where the movie begins its new life as a journey through a child’s fantasy land. While the place seems like a normal factory on the outside … inside is a world of pure imagination. In essence, it’s less about story, and more about an experience into a fantastical setting. It’s all about watching these everyday people go from one colorful, imaginative location in the factory to another, and no two rooms are the same. Some are very whimsical, some provide a lot of goofy comedy, some are technical marvels, some of it can be a little spooky, and some rooms are just quirky oddities. Funny enough, the film also follows the outline of a “SAW” movie, in which each room tests one of the kids, and each child in turn gets removed from the film do to their failures. Wonka through it all even acts like a puppet master who knows in his mind exactly how everything is going to unfold. The thread that gives the experience substance is Charlie himself, who likewise is put to the test on what the virtues are for being a good kid, and not greedy like the others.

       Despite Wonka’s name is in the title of the movie, and commonly the character taking up the most space on the poster, this film is absolutely Charlies story. While he’s certainly a good kid, he’s not without fault. Sometimes he can be a little selfish, and other times he lets his curiosity get the best of him. Thus, in the end it’s all the more rewarding to see how far he’s matured, and how he proves to be selfless when faced with an opportunity to make money. Peter Ostrum played Charlie Bucket, and it turned out to be both his very first and last acting role. While Peter has expressed nothing but love for his experience on the film, he also never aspired a career in acting, and decided to follow his own dreams. I congratulate him for his choice, but I also want to compliment him for his performance in this role. Child acting is perhaps the most challenging thing to get right in a movie, but Peter Ostrum in my view gave a perfect performance for his age, and made every emotion feel real. Roald Dahl, the author of the original book always viewed Charlie as the principle character, hence why his name was in the title of the book. Needless to say, he wasn’t a fan of how Wonka seemed to steal the spot light in the movie. Truthfully, while Wonka is certainly a scene steal-er, I think he missed how well realized Charlies character was, that he was the one with a character arc, and that he’s absolutely the center piece of the story ... unlike the 2005 remake staring Johnny Depp, in which Wonka was actually the main character with the only story arc.  

      All the remaining kid actors brought their respected roles to life with distinct quirks, but the one other child star who really stands out is Julie Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt, who’s easily the most spoiled and bad-tempered child of them all. This has to be one of my personal favorite child performances, as she is fiercely committed to the part, and is bursting with fiery energy in every scene. While I’ve seen okay bratty kid performances, Veruca is just this insane tornado of relentless built-up emotion. On a side note, as far as child singing is concerned, she’s perfectly passable, and her song “I want it now” makes for a great villain song in its own right. Also, I can’t forget about the late Jack Albertson and his infectiously lovable performance as Charlies Grandpa Joe. While he could have easily been written off as just the wise and friendly grandfather, he’s also a bit stubborn, a pinch reckless, and it gives him more of a realized character to portray. In general, I love seeing old men that still retain the beating heart of a child, and Grandpa Jo is just brimming with a young spirit despite his age. Speaking personally for a second, both of my late grandfathers retained so much of that same childhood spirit in their late ages, and I see so much of them both in Jack Albertson’s performance. 

      At last, lets talk about the main man himself, the late great Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Strait to the point … this is one of my absolute favorite character performances in all of cinema. Right from the characters introduction scene of him faking a cripple leg in front of a large crowd, only to reveal he’s actually rather spry ... it just hooks you right into his captivating screen presence.

Obviously, his purple suit and funny hat are iconic, but it was Gene Wilder himself in the role who made the character come to life. What makes his performance work is the duality on display, as he captures the relentless warmth of a friendly figure, but also the quirkiness of a mad doctor who may or may not be trustworthy. It’s a very animated performance to say the least, but it’s also restrained in just the right ways, and that’s where Gene shines. He knew exactly how to keep enough personality tucked inside, while also being very looney with the delivery. There’s one too many memorable quirks and funny lines to recap, but a personal favorite of mine is when he drops a pair of shoes in a boiling pot of food and says … “that will give it a little more kick”. I also love this one moment in which he drinks out of a candy tea cup, and after a brief hesitation … he decides to go ahead and eat the cup too. It goes without saying that a whole generation of children were introduced to Gene Wilder through his performance as Willy Wonka, and it’s the character that I associate with him the most. Having said that, I don’t want to undermine that he was unmistakably a comedic titan in the 70’s, namely for his roles in Mel Brooks classics like “The Producers”, “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”. I should note that Roald Dahl was once again not of fan of Gene Wilder in the role, as he really wanted to see his character played by the great Spike Milligan. While I’m sure he could have done something credible in the role, I just couldn’t picture anyone else but Gene Wilder in the part.

        The factory itself functions as a character, and it’s likewise what helps keep the film so engaging to watch. The first half of the movie actually does a good job holding the viewers interest, but then in the second half we finally enter this amazing, wondrous setting, and the entertainment value is bumped up to eleven. Even though most of the look and aesthetics on display are very 1970’s, there’s still something to admire about all the practical effects, crazy sets, and designs of each room. I especially love that each location in the factory has its own distinct feel and personality. My favorite elements of the factory are actually all the little details spread throughout, like the lick-able wall paper, the coat hangers that actually crab the coats, and the randomly placed sign listing off various creams leading up to ... “Hair Cream”. My favorite scene of all, which wasn’t even in the original book, was the Wonka-mobile … a giant car that can’t drive 12 feet without spitting-up tons of soap on its passengers. I always looked at this as the most “fun” moment of the film, as it doesn’t involve spoiled children in danger, and it establishes a subtle contrast between the passengers. Charlie and his grandpa are loving it and having fun, while the others can’t stand getting soap on them. 

       Now let’s talk about one of the film’s most famous moments … the tunnel scene. This is the textbook definition of a scary scene existing in a family film just for the sake of a random spooky scene, and in my opinion … it’s all the better for it. For me, classic family films are all the more special when there’s that one random scene that sticks with us for being completely out of left field, and out of context with the rest of the movie. During the tour of Wonda’s factory, the guests take a seemingly peaceful ride on a ferry that’s calmly sailing a chocolate river. 

Then it literally takes a dark turn down a mysterious tunnel, full of neon lights, warped visuals (obvious 70’s anesthetic's), and all kinds of random nightmare imagery that’s terrifying the passengers. We get images of a Snake slithering over someone’s face, tense eyeball closeups, creepy crawly critters, dark suited men, and a chicken getting its head cut off. It’s absolutely bonkers, has nothing to do with the story, makes no sense in the context of the film, and yet, somehow the experience just feels more complete with a randomly placed creepy scene. In general, I love family films that convey a variety of emotions in one package. This movie has its whimsical moments, sad moments, funny moments, exciting moments, and a little bit of fear just completes the package. While this scene definitely took me by surprise as a kid, I really don’t remember it scaring me that much. If anything, I remember I was actually disappointed that there wasn’t more creepy imagery on display then what we got. It should come as know surprise that, while there was a ferry ride in the book, it was heavily altered for the film ... you can probably imagine how author Roald Dahl felt about that.    

      On that note, Roald Dahl has publicly disowned the film, and was furious with the final result. Originally, he wrote the screen play for the movie, but it was heavily altered by screen writer David Seltzer, who’s largely responsible for all the memorable scenes from the film that were absent from the book. Speaking personally, I’m of the opinion that a movie adaption should be faithful to the source material, but it should also create its own unique moments, and tweak the story just enough so that it’s familiar, but with its own unique identity. I already mentioned the added scene with Wonka’s bubbly car, but there’s a lot more that I’d like to compare to the book. The Oompa Loompas in the book resembled normal people, just very small, but I’ve always preferred the movies re-design with the orange faces and green hair, as it just made them stand out as unique creatures. The shady Slugworth character, who was a very minor part in the book was also given a larger role in the movie. This annoyed Roald Dahl to no end as he felt the film was trying to shoe horn in a pointless villain. I find that ironic as Roald Dahl created the Child Catcher for the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, and he was a villain that wasn’t even featured in the original source material. Furthermore, while Slugworth had a traditional shadowy presence, he certainly wasn’t a villain, was even revealed to be working for Wonka the whole time, and ended up playing an important role in Charlies character arc.

      The majority of the consequences of the naughty kids, like the boy stuck in the pip, the girl transforming into a blueberry and the TV obsessed kid shrinking in Wonka’s machine were all carried over faithfully from the book … but Veruca Salt getting dumped down with the garbage was very different. 

In the book, it’s a room full of squirrels making Chocolate Nuts, then when Veruca gets out of hand, and is dropped down the trash shoot, Wonka responds with … “She was a bad nut”. The movie changed this scene to giant geese laying Golden Chocolate Eggs for Easter, and this time when Veruca drops, Wonka responds with ... “She was a bad Egg”. Again, speaking personally, I’ll always prefer the giant geese as they tie-in with my love for watching this movie around Easter time. The scene with the “fizzy lifting drinks” was another completely original sequence for the movie. Aside from being a very fun scene with our two principle characters flying around, I also felt this served as an important part in Charlies arc. This was the incident that showed how Charlie was capable of making mistakes, by letting his curiosity get the better of him, and it made the resolution at the end all the more effective when we see how much he’d learned from then. The scene in Wonka’s office was also created for the movie, and in my opinion, the story was all the stronger for it. This was the emotional highlight, as we saw Charlie pass one final test from Wonka. On a side note, I’ve always loved the design of Wonka’s office, as all his furniture was split in half, and served as a metaphor of the characters split duality. Wonka’s glass elevator was also featured more prominently in the book, but I thought saving it for the climax of the movie worked fine.

      So, is there anything added in the movie that I didn’t care for … um, there certainly is in the first half. Most obviously, I never understood why this movie focused on so many adults that were obsessing over Wonka’s Golden tickets, especially when the tickets were clearly meant for children only. What’s worse, there are some ponderous detours with pointless characters going to absurd lengths to get their hands on these darn things. It gets so stupid that there’s actually a moment when a random woman’s husband gets abducted, and his life will be terminated if she doesn’t surrender her collection of Wonka bars. 

The scene is bad enough, but it’s made even worse when the wife is hesitant to give up her stupid candy bars over her husband’s life. These moronic scenes with the adults should have been completely removed, as they did nothing but pad the movie out. Also, while I’ve always loved the songs for their memorable lyrics, I’m not the biggest fan of the musical numbers as their presented. The staging in kind of generic, the singing doesn’t always sound that great, and some of them like “Cheer Up Charlie” and “The Candy Man” song are just kind of boring to watch. The musical number “I’ve got a Golden Ticket” is a song that I absolutely adore in-of-itself, but as a scene in the film, it’s almost relentlessly corny to watch. The “Oompa Loompa” songs are perfect all around, and a rare case in which the music is actually lifted right from the original book. Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” song is another great one that I love all around, and even though Gene Wilder doesn’t exactly have a great singing voice, there’s still something about the passion and commitment he puts into the song that makes it work. Also, the instrumental score on its own is outstanding, and even earned an Oscar nomination for best original music score. As soon as the movie begins with that memorable opening credit sequence in the chocolate factory, and that music chimes in … I’m instantly in a good mood.    

     In general, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is right on par with the likes of “The Wizard of Oz” as one of the great family movie classics. Despite being an obvious product of the 70’s, it’s still remained timeless, and I’d hate for any childhood to be without it. It’s a film that conveys thoughtful messages to kids, but also gives them a great variety of fun and wonderment. I think most people who have grown-up with a passion for films might just have had been inspired by “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, and maybe without realizing it.

Without a doubt, it’s one of those special movies that broadens the imagination in young viewers, and possibly even older viewers. For me, I’ve always looked back on this film as an example of what movies should do best, which is transport the audience from the familiar, have them enter a world of creativity, experience a variety of emotional highlights along the way, return back to the real world feeling refreshed, and possibly even learned something meaningful along the way. If you’d prefer an adaption that’s closer to Roald Dahl’s original book, you can watch Tim Burton’s 2004 remake “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp. That version was almost a perfect recreation of the book with minimal alterations, but personally, I never felt that it captured the same warmth or charming appeal of the original film. That’s not to say it was a terrible remake, just … not bar of chocolate. It goes without saying that I still love the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, just as much as I did as a kid, and with modern day entertainment getting less enchanting, and more commercial, it’s something that I’ve pushed for younger viewers to discover or in the cases of some parents … re-discover. If you’re someone who regrettably missed this film at any point in your life, do yourself a favor this Easter and treat both yourself and possibly the whole family to one of the most delicious films ever made.

 I give “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” a strong 4 ½ stars out of 5.