For Reel

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
November 15, 2015, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mel Stuart
4 Stars
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryThe reputation of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is inextricably linked to its shockingly dark content. There’s a surreal matter-of-factness to the way that the film approaches scenes that, in another storyteller’s hand, might be treated as tragic, or at least suspenseful. The children in Wonka’s factory drop like flies, and the eponymous chocolate manufacturer (brilliantly played by Gene Wilder) sarcastically illustrates concern and teases about their uncertain fates. But these “horrors” are not a flaw of the film, or even an idiosyncratic element that points towards a certain sense of post-modern irony. Rather, as with the best children’s entertainment, the film understands the delicate balance of amusement and horror that keeps a child’s imagination engaged. Furthermore, the earnestness (and admitted blandness–this is a film visually redeemed almost exclusively by its production design) of Mel Stuart’s direction creates a compelling contrast to these darker elements. This is a sickly-sweet, absolutely sentimental movie that deals nonchalantly with the enigmatic and horrible–very few entertainments of this type manage to straddle that line in achieving both a comforting and slightly off-kilter tone.

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