Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Willy Wonka is a rare film, in that it manages to maintain a level of whimsy and intrigue merely through its aesthetic. The world of the chocolate factory is so spectacular and imaginative that it is easy to get lost looking at the beautiful scenery. The movie uses this excellent setting to its advantage throughout the film, especially when the children first enter the factory and see the chocolate river in the first room. Like most Dahl adaptations, the imagination used to create the world is astounding, and the creative team that put the Wonka factory together deserves constant praise for their work.
The universe of Wonka’s factory is greatly enhanced by Wonka himself, and a lot of the credit for how interesting he is goes to Gene Wilder. Wilder’s performance is as crazy as the factory his character operates in, constantly switching between snide remarks and over-the-top antics. He keeps the audience on its toes constantly, keeping him as mysterious to the audience as he is to the characters. His nature is complimented by the aesthetic, and the aesthetic complimented by him in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. The movie does everything else excellently as well, but it is the way the movie fells (and makes you feel) that makes it a timeless classic.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
If any of you have ever seen a Wes Anderson film, you know pretty much exactly what you are in for. The movie has all the excellence of your standard Wes Anderson film: great dialogue, superb timing, a wonderful aesthetic and beautiful cinematography. These aspects are always present in his films, but are not always the most prominent aspects of children’s movies. Fantastic Mr. Fox’s biggest asset is that it feels like a Wes Anderson movie, not toned down for children. It never feels like it is talking down to its audience, and never feels like it was written with specifically children in mind. Other than having a lack of graphic violence and language, the movie is no different feeling from any other great Wes Anderson film, which is extremely refreshing.
The dialogue, like in many of his other films, is so interesting and well put together. The dialogue feels so natural and flows in way that sounds more like a normal conversation than the script to a film. That fact is even more impressive in this film, where the lines are coming from animal creatures who steal crops and livestock from farmers. When characters that could not exist in the real world can sound natural, the movie feels so much more real than it looks. The characters are far more relatable and interesting when the dialogue is natural, and Wes Anderson is one of the masters of this. Overall, what results is one of the most original feeling children’s movies I’ve ever seen, and an excellent edition to Wes Anderson’s already amazing filmography.