Reflecting on my childhood, I remember watching my dad’s copy of Willy Wonka on videotape over and over again, and loving every second. Since watching the film, I have always wanted to eat a chocolate Wonka bar, just to try it. Come to think about it, I’ve never been a huge fan of candy as much as I loved chocolate and bubblegum.
In short, I was kind of like Violet Beauregard. She was the only girl worth watching, for I hated the spoiled brat Veruca Salt and I preferred gum over candies like jawbreakers (like Everlasting Gobstoppers, right?), Dots, Nerds, and Laffy Taffy. I did like the occasional after dinner peppermint or a candy cane in the winter, though. But since I was diagnosed with TMJ disease, I haven’t been able to eat those delicious confections.
Nope, I was destined to be more of a female Charlie Bucket. But I also wanted to turn and shout at Veruca, “Can it, you nit!” Just like Violet did in the first five minutes of entering Wonka’s Chocolate Room, where Veruca started complaining to her father that she wanted an Oompa Loompa immediately.
Many, many years later, I heard of Gene Wilder’s passing from Alzheimer’s, and I thought, what better way to remember him than to watch one of his old movies from the 70s. I’ve seen Young Frankenstein numerous times and I’ve recently watched Silver Streak, which felt like a huge three-hour movie with Wilder jumping off the same train three times and each time he cried, “SONOFABITCH!” Also, Richard Pryor’s humor was a little too much for me, and I wasn’t a big fan of westerns, so no to Blazing Saddles.
Then my dad pulled out the DVD of Willy Wonka at the record store in Towson, and all the childhood memories came flooding back. I remembered every time I went by Walmart I found that movie on disc, but I always put it back because either I didn’t have the money or it was probably childish and stupid that I would have it when I had no kids of my own. That was a dumb decision to keep putting it back on the shelf. So I grabbed it.
The main menu of the DVD is delightful. Every time you click a button on the different menu options, the screen went into the Wonkavator that took you to the scene selection or the bonus features menu. And the documentary pieces were charming enough, for they talked to the kids who played the children in the movie, all grown up, and it also featured one last interview with dear Gene Wilder himself.
Wilder said that he didn’t want to make the child actor playing Charlie Bucket all upset when he yelled at the top of his lungs near the end of the movie. But he couldn’t go up to him and say he was sorry before the scene; he just had to do it for he was an actor playing a role. He really wanted to say he loved him. And he wanted to tell Mike Teevee that he was a trouble maker.
I about died inside.
When I rewatched the film at last, I took note of a few minor things made in the film. I read the first part of the contract, which actually says: Whereas the management cannot be held responsible for any accidents, incidents, loss of property or life or limb, AND whereas for damage caused by lightning, earthquakes, floods, fire, frost, or frippery of any sort, kind or condition, consequently the undersigned undertake responsibility. Whereas during the term of this Agreement, you will become and remain at your own sole cost and expense at our request…
And so on it goes. I couldn’t read the rest of the contract on Wonka’s wall, for I couldn’t see past the feather pens in front of it and the longer the contract’s content went, the font got smaller and smaller to read. But I kind of knew this was all a part of the test.
I also knew that there was something up with that guy in the candy store when Charlie went in to buy some chocolate for himself and for Grandpa Joe. It was as if that news story about the South American gambler finding the last Golden Ticket was planted so that the press and the people would lay off the hunt for the last one. And the way Sammy Davis Jr. smiled at Charlie when he handed him the regular Wonka bar wasn’t very inconspicuous. He was definitely hiding something, like he was working undercover for Wonka to find the perfect child to help run the factory.
Wonka sent out five Golden Tickets to five lucky child winners to get a lifetime supply of chocolate and a tour of the factory. But what they didn’t know was that Wonka was really looking for a child who had the pure kindness gene in him. The adults tend to be a little too cold and unimaginative, wanting to do things their way, for Grandpa Joe was a little too hasty after the scene in Wonka’s office when they yelled at each other.
“I’ll get even with him if it’s the last thing I ever do,” Charlie’s grandfather said. “If Slugworth wants a Gobstopper, he’ll get one.”
But right then, Charlie stops, turns around, and gives his only Gobstopper to Wonka. That’s where Gene Wilder says the Shakespeare quote from Merchant of Venice, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” That’s where he wins everything.
That lovely moment is the best part. And I’m glad that the producers of the film came up with a better line for Wonka to say at the end of the movie than just the grandfather saying yippee.
“But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted… He lived happily ever after.”
This is a family classic from when my parents were mere kids and I’m glad my dad showed this movie to me. Just one thing, I’d rather fast forward through all the Oompa Loompa song sequences. They give me a headache.
I also remember this commercial that involved the same song-