As a smaller, younger person I enjoyed many of Roald Dahl’s books, my favorite of which was Matlida. As an older, bigger person, I found his two memoirs, Boy and Going Solo fascinating reading. However, one thing that I never particularly liked was Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 movie version of Dahl’s most famous work, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. I bring it up now because my husband and I watched the film again last night with the Rifftrax commentary. (Rifftrax is like the old Mystery Science Theater show but with famous movies instead of D-listers and without the silhouettes in the corner of the screen.)
I know, I know, Willy Wonka is a beloved childhood favorite of many, including my husband. The “riffers” for this movie included Neil Patrick Harris, who said he picked the movie because even though it was his favorite from childhood, there were just some things about the movie that “weren’t right.” Indeed, NPH, indeed.
This is not the first time my individual taste has differed from the masses. There are PLENTY of things out there, beloved and adored by my contemporaries, that I just don’t get. (I’ll spare you the list.) The Willy Wonka movie always kind of gave me an ill feeling on the inside and the riffers illuminated why in their commentary by making several remarks about the bleak, dark, deathly and for the most part hopeless nature of the film. Dahl is definitely a dark storyteller, but translated onto the big screen, this film is just too weird. (I have seen the remake with Johnny Depp and didn’t care for that one either. I could probably do some sort of back to back comparison but I’ve done my vomiting for the year.)
There are other reasons why I never liked this movie. It’s not particularly subtle, in the acting or dialogue, something that continues to irk me about contemporary films. The music is…how shall I put this…not good. There are very few musicals I could ever sit through. Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Oliver! I think that’s it. And finally, I never, not even as a child, ever wanted to own or work in a candy store. I liked some candy and loved chocolate, but was never particularly gluttonous about it. (I don’t like candy at all now and find the smell of places like The Sweet Factory nausea-inducing, but I still love chocolate and wish I could practice some of the restraint about it that I could as a child.)
I was glad to see this movie land in the sights of Rifftrax, because it means I am not alone in wondering why it is such a classic. I have not seen the movie version of Matilda and I think I’ll keep it that way. I have seen Fantastic Mr. Fox which I loved and think might be a bit under appreciated. I wonder what my daughter will think of these films and how they’ll be perceived by the younger generation. I’ll definitely have her read the books first.
Thoughts? Do you agree that the movie is just too weird or have I rained all over your fondest childhood film? What about other movie adaptations of Dahl works? Have you read “Boy” or “Going Solo”? If you haven’t and like Dahl, you should. Favorite treats and sweets, now or as a child?