Willy Wonka is a Fine Wine

How often have you re-watched a television show or movie that you loved as a child only to be awfully disappointed? I have experienced this tragedy countless times, and I’m sure you have as well. But once in a great while…from time to time… a childhood favorite becomes far more moving and meaningful after we’ve grown up.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of these movies.

Why I Used to Love It: Every kid loves candy. To watch a movie about a magical candy factory is quite a…treat. Sure, the scenes in which the naughty children are maimed and tortured were slightly disturbing, but they deserved it. And of course I loved the songs, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” and “Pure Imagination”. Charlie is the good one, and he wins in the end. This is how it should be. I was well pleased. Except that “Cheer Up Charlie” scene sucked. I always fast forwarded through it.

Why I Love It Now: After watching the Tim Burton remake, I discovered a new reason to love the original; Willy Wonka is an adult. Johnny Depp portrayed Willy Wonka as an immature man with daddy issues. Gene Wilder portrayed him as a man who at first seems eccentric and perhaps untrustworthy, but in the end reveals that he was in control of himself and his factory. He is worthy of our respect and adoration. He is worthy of Charlie just as Charlie is worthy of him and his factory.
There are a number of moving scenes that I never appreciated as a child. When it is reported that the last golden ticket has been found, the Bucket family discusses Charlie’s certain disappointment. Grandpa Joe tells them not to wake the boy so he can have one last dream. And Charlie is shown to be listening in his bed with tears in his eyes.
The “Cheer Up Charlie” scene means more to me as well. After Charlie expresses to his mother that he has no chance of winning the ticket (“You can count me out!”) we see a mother’s hope for her son.

Look up, Charlie
You’ll see a star
Just follow it and keep your dreams in view
Pretty soon the sky is going to clear up
Cheer up Charlie,do
Cheer up Charlie
Just be glad you’re you.

By far, the most powerful scene in the film comes at the end. Charlie and Grandpa Joe have reached the end of the tour and expect Wonka to give them the lifetime supply of chocolate. Unfortunately, Wonka informs them that they broke the rules.

Watch this clip from 6:20.


All hope seems lost. Grandpa Joe reacts as any adult would. He even calls Wonka an inhuman monster. “How could you build up a little boy’s hopes and then smash all his dreams to pieces?”
And finally, he tells Charlie, “If Slugworth wants a gobstopper, he’ll get one.”
Charlie has nothing. His family needs the money that Slugworth promised. So, when he gives Wonka his Everlasting Gobstopper it is an entirely selfless act. He gives his wordly life to Wonka, and then Wonka gives him everything.
You have to see the theological implications here. Slugworth is the devil with his promise of worldly pleasures and comfort, but Wonka is concerned with the heart of the children (just as God is with His children). Charlie loses his life to gain the kingdom (Wonka’s Factory). Wonka even calls Charlie, “My Boy”. The relationship between father and son.

I am now able to appreciate this film on all of these levels. It is a true classic.

2 thoughts on “Willy Wonka is a Fine Wine

  1. I totally agree Dave, I recently watched this movie again and I appreciated it way more. Wonka's quips are just too clever, and the ending more powerful. Great way to incorporate the Biblical point of view into it.

  2. Pingback: The Powerful Subtext of Homeward Bound « Thoughts of a Post-Grad TwentySomething

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