Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Me: Molly has been telling me about how she's been wanting to watch "that movie with the chocolate river" again. She's seen Willy Wonka once before about 5 or 6 months ago and apparently remembered it. So we went to the video store after I picked her up from school and I let her pick out a couple of movies and she grabbed "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (the 1971 classic, not the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory travesty).

Hopefully you've seen it before, because it really is a classic. I've always liked the movie and I liked it as an adult before I had my daughter. Now that I have a kid, it's fun to watch with her. Molly was really very into the movie when we watched it. It starts a little slow and drags a bit before the arrival at the factory, but she was still insistent on sitting there intently and watching it and asking me a lot of questions. She was really disappointed when the fifth ticket showed up in Paraguay and Charlie didn't get it. However, she was really excited once it was discovered to be a fake and Charlie found the last ticket.

Anyhow, the movie is an adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl (who also wrote the Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was made into a movie that I loved). Roald Dahl actually wrote the screenplay for the 1971 movie as well, but ultimately was disappointed by some revisions that were put into his work, notably the emphasis on Willy Wonka over Charlie and Charlie's flawed morality by stealing the Fizzy-lifting drink. I kind of have to agree a bit with the second bit, as Charlie stealing the drink did create a little moral ambiguity that was difficult for Molly to understand as she told me at the end of the movie "but he stoled drink so he was a bad kid too". As far as the emphasis on Willy Wonka, I have to say that I think that this is genius work by Gene Wilder and he is amazingly fun to watch. The whole reason for the original title change to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory instead of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the result of product tie-ins, since the Willy Wonka name could be branded.

There was also a bit of controversy in the original Dahl book, as the Oompa-Loompa were originally pygmies from Africa who worked for cacao beans and are experimented on with the candy testing, but it was later changed in a revised reissue to a more fantastical race from Loompaland in response to criticism of being racist. The movie's change to orange-skinned green-haired peoples from Loompaland actually predates the author's revisions in his books. I suppose it while staving off charges of racism by this change, it still doesn't exactly better the colonialism nature exhibited by Wonka.

But cheap foreign labor issues aside, the movie really is a lot of fun. The flaws of the children are blunt and obvious and morality lessons to be learned are recited to us in song by the Oompa-Loompas. The bad children, however, have character flaws of what seems to be differing problematic levels.

Augustus Gloop is gluttonous. It seems rather basic enough of a "sin" for this character, even though he's out of the story quickly and doesn't survive past the first room so we've never explored the possible psychological issues that Augustus might suffer from, such as a shattered childhood where he turned to compulsive overeating as a means to cope with his feelings. Instead, he is just that German kid who wears shorts in October when everyone else has on coats and scarves. Really, are Nazi uniforms and lederhosen the only two types of clothing that Hollywood wardrobes can provide for German characters? But anyway, I can see how gluttony is an issue, more so in today's world than in 1971. This is a message that is appropriate enough to tell to children.

Violet Beauregarde is obsessed with gum chewing. This seems to be a rather specific problem and not really a "global" children's issue that needs to be dealt with. In fact, her flaw can be seen akin to Augustus's gluttony in a way. Or, perhaps more appropriately, as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder since she is obsessed with chewing the same piece of gum. If that is the case, then a "life-lesson" at the Wonka factory probably isn't really the best approach and instead the Oompa-Loompa should be looking for rhymes for "tricyclic antidepressants", "serotonin" and "cognitive-behavioral therapy". Instead, the Oompa-Loompas sing about the perils of obsessive gum-chewing and include the lyric; "Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while; it stops you from smoking and brightens your smile." It stops you from smoking?!? This line being in a song for children's morality is rather odd, unless, we assume that Violet used to be a heavy chain smoker and this is how she's given it up. If that is the case, then I say the Oompa-Loompas should be more accepting of the lesser of two evils. Either way, if Violet is suffering from severe OCD or if she is struggling with nicotine addiction, I have to say that her "sin" is rather minor and unfitting in context of the other kids.

Veruca Salt is, appropriately, most people's favorite of the kids. Her last name is "Salt" to emphasize that there is nothing sweet about her. She's greedy, selfish and quite spoiled. These are, of course, terrible traits for a child to have. However, as the Oompa-Loompas point out in song, it is the full blame of the mothers and the fathers for a child to be like this. So, is it alright for the children to snooze during this part of the movie since the message is for their parents? I mean, the Loompa song pretty much absolves the child for any responsibility in their condition and puts the full blame on the parents. Does that mean that Veruca Salt is potentially incinerated in a garbage chute for crimes of her parents? According to the Oompa-Loompas, that is the case. Now, any of the issues of the children can be traced back to their parents and their upbringing (except poor Violet's brain chemistry and her OCD, unless we want to blame the parents on a genetic level), but this is the only issue that the Oompa-Loompas specifically call out the parents on. So we must assume that this one is fully the fault of the parents and poor Veruca has been incinerated merely because of the lack of discipline in her upbringing. Though if it is an consolation, her father also gets incinerated.

Mike Teavee is television obsessed and apparently by his dress and attitude we can assume that in 1971 all that was on teevee was Westerns. However, looking at the prime time TV schedule for the 1971-72 season you see that this was not the case. Gunsmoke was on Monday nights at 8 on NBC, but other than that, there were no Westerns. That's fine, however, because I really think the character would have suffered if he was a Mannix-obsessed boy or obsessively watched The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Still, I suppose that this is a relevant message for today's kids.

Charlie Bucket is a poor kid who is supposed to be honest, but he steals Fizzy-Lifting Drink with his Grandpa and is almost decapitated by a metal fan blade. But he makes good at the end of the movie by returning the everlasting Gobstopper to Willy Wonka and showing his trustworthiness. Then, the weirdest thing happens. Wonka produces Slugworth and reveals that he is working for him and that the whole thing was a morality test. Now, I have always assumed that this means that Slugworth is really a subsidiary of Wonka's and by creating this illusion of competition, Wonka is really just subverting antitrust laws. Is that how Wonka's chocolate became such a powerhouse in the world? Has he used a dummy competitor to enter the market with him to give the illusion of competition while just using the dual market influences to take out his competitors with predatory pricing practices? I mean, it makes sense, considering the cheap slave labor that runs the Wonka factories, he could lower the prices enough and have the dummy Slugworth company match his lower prices. This would give the illusion of fair competition, while at the same time excluding newcomers into the markets and ultimately Wonka's cheap labor could offset any losses incurred by the dummy Slugworth company. This is probably why Wonka never considers letting an Oompa-Loompa take over his business and instead searches out for a kid. If he let the Oompa-Loompas learn the dubious morality of the market model that Wonka is using, he'd have to fear for his life with a song that started with "Oompa-Loompa doompadee Derman Dantitrust Dact".

Anyhow, despite the anti-fair competition message, the movie is quite excellent and Gene Wilder is perfect in it. I loved this movie as a kid and I loved it as an adult. Now I love it as a father watching it with my kid.

Molly: (As always, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at a computer and I'm typing up what we are saying as we speak, then going back afterward to format it. Her review will be in a Q&A form, due to her age. She's sitting next to me at my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
Molly: Daddy, it wasn't in a movie feater.
Chuckie: I know, Sweetie. But we can still review it, right?
Molly: Yeah. I was just saying it wasn't in a movie feater.
Chuckie: So, what did you think of the movie?
Molly: I liked it.

Chuckie: What did you like about the movie, Pixie?
Molly: I liked the part about the boy going down into the chocolate.
Chuckie: Augustus Gloop?
Molly: Yeah. In the chocolate.

Chuckie: What happened in the movie?
Molly: (She does not immediately answer, but decides to get another chair. She gets up and goes to Jessica's computer desk and gets her roller chair and pushes it over next to me and climbs up onto it, all the while chanting "Oompa-oompa, oompa-oompa" again and again.)
Chuckie: You set up now?
Molly: Yeah.

Chuckie: Okay, so what happened in the movie?
Molly: They had to find golden tickets and someone tricked them.

Chuckie: How did they trick them?
Molly: Um, because there were no more left when he said that he got one, but he lied. He didn't really have one. There were five tickets and there were none left, but there really was one left.

Chuckie: Let's talk about the kids. Tell me about Augustus Gloop.
Molly: Him was bad because he ate the chocolate from the river and went in a tube.

Chuckie: Tell me about Violet Beauregarde.
Molly: That's Molly Simon.
Chuckie: What do you mean.
Molly: My hair's like her hair. See? (She holds out a handful of strands of her hair to show me.) Her hair matches mine. It's brown like her hair.
Chuckie: Do you act like her?
Molly: She's me when I growed up. Then I'll act like her.
Chuckie: Well, what happened to Violet.
Molly: Her turned into a blueberry. I called her a grape once, Daddy.

Chuckie: Tell me about Veruca Salt.
Molly: Her was an egg.
Chuckie: What do you mean?
Molly: Her wanted everything, even the eggs.
Chuckie: And what happened to her?
Molly: She wanted to be an egg and she went into the garbage.

Chuckie: Tell me about Mike Teavee.
Molly: I want to talk about Charlie Brown.

Chuckie: Do you mean Charlie Bucket?
Molly: No, him name was Charlie Brown.

Chuckie: Okay, let's talk about him.
Molly: Um, him drink the drink. (She makes a fist and mimes drinking a drink from it.) And then he flew, flew, flew! And they almost got to the fan. And then they had to burp. Ew, Daddy, gross. You're eating your shirt. (She is looking at me and I do have the collar of my tee shirt in my mouth and am chewing on it while I type. It's a nasty habit I have.)
Chuckie: Sorry, Sweetie. (I drop it out of my mouth.)
Molly: Daddy, if you eat your shirts all the time that's how you won't get bigger muscles. You need to eat healthy food instead to get muscles or else you can't fight Shelby Marx.

Chuckie: What did you think about the songs in the movie?
Molly: Um, I liked the part where they went "oompa oompa". That one.

Chuckie: What were the Oompa Loompas' songs about?
Molly: Fixing the kids.

Chuckie: Were there any parts of the movie that you didn't like?
Molly: Yep.
Chuckie: What parts?
Molly: The one that tricked them.
Chuckie: You mean the fake golden ticket?
Molly: Yeah. Him was really bad. Him was more bad than the kids.

Chuckie: Was the movie scary at all?
Molly: Nah.

Chuckie: Not even when the boat when in the tunnel?
Molly: No. I'd watch it a couple times and I'd be fine.

Chuckie: So what happened to Charlie at the end of the movie?
Molly: You mean Charlie Brown?

Chuckie: Sure.
Molly: Him gived the candy back to the man and that meant he won.

Chuckie: What did he win?
Molly: He got to go in a big rocket ship.

Chuckie: Do you think that this is a good movie for kids your age?
Molly: You can say that again!
Chuckie: Did you learn --
Molly: (interrupting) Daddy, I said you can say that again.
Chuckie: I heard you.
Molly: So say it.
Chuckie: Okay. Do you think that this is a good movie for kids your age?
Molly: Yeah.

Chuckie: Did you learn any lessons from the movie?
Molly: Uh-huh. You're supposed to be a good kid.

Chuckie: So, the movie taught you to be good?
Molly: Daddy, it's not a teacher, it doesn't talk like that.

Chuckie: How would you rate this movie?
Molly: Can we please give out stars and give out moons and give out suns?

Chuckie: Of course, Pixie. You can rate it however you want.
Molly: Six-eleven stars.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of sixty-hundred. Sixty hundred moons out of sixty-sixty hundred moons.

Chuckie: And suns?
Molly: Yeah, it can have suns.

Chuckie: How many?
Molly: Sixty-hundred twelve and sixty.

Chuckie: Do you think that people would like this movie?
Molly: Uh-huh. Craig and Lindsey should watch it. And Mike said he saw it. And Edison would like it. And Mason. And Grandmom and Pop Pop and Conner and Emily and Grammy and Pappy and Sarah would like it.

Chuckie: No, I mean people that you don't know.
Molly: Like the girl with the two doggies?

Chuckie: Who do you mean?
Molly: The one with the two doggies that are brown/

Chuckie: I'm not sure who you are talking about, Pixie.
Molly: The one with the two doggies and she said something one time and you said "Hi" to her.

Chuckie: Sweetie, I don't know who you mean.
Molly: (She starts to "draw" a "map" on her leg with her finger.) The one with the bricks whose house is here and our house is here.

Chuckie: You mean the neighbor across the street?
Molly: Yeah. Her would like it.

Chuckie: Is there anything else you want to tell people about the movie?
Molly: Well, I was laughing at some parts, so I think it's a funny movie.

Chuckie: What were you laughing at?
Molly: (She makes a fake burping sound, then laughs at herself.)

Chuckie: You liked the burpring?
Molly: (She nods.) Daddy, when you shake your head like this it means yes. And when you shake your head like this is means no. And when you say yes, it means yes and when you say no, it means no. (She points at her cup that has smiling jack-o-lanterns on it.) And, Daddy, these pumpkins liked the movie. They're laughing because of the burps.

So that's our review. I think that it is a classic and Gene Wilder at his best. Parts of the movie may be a little intense or creepy, but Molly was surprisingly fine with the dark elements in the movie. But then again, that's Molly. Your mileage with your kids may vary. It's a great children's movie that is still quite charming once you are an adult. And for a movie that we were watching on DVD instead of the theater, Molly was quite entranced throughout.

I give it four out of five stars. It is a great children's movie that is also fun for adults. It holds up well despite the time, even if the Oompa-Loompa songs are a bit dated and the explanation of how television images are transmitted is out of date. Just ignore the Wonka's anti-trust antics and you'll have a fine time.
Molly gives it sixty-eleven stars out of sixty-hundred, sixty hundred moons out of sixty-sixty hundred moons and sixty-hundred twelve and sixty suns. She also thinks that our neighbor across the street would like it and it is also documentary as apparently she is intent on growing up to be Violet Beauregarde.

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